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FREDERICK NIETZSCHE was born at Rocken near 
Ltitzen, in the Prussian province of Saxony, on 
the i 5th of October 1844, at 10 a.m. The day 
happened to be the anniversary of the birth of 
Frederick-William IV., then King of Prussia, and 
the peal of the local church-bells which was intended 
to celebrate this event, was, by a happy coincidence, 
just timed to greet my brother on his entrance into 
the world. In 1 84 1 , at the time when our fatherwas 
tutor to the Altenburg Princesses, Theresa of Saxe- 
Altenburg, Elizabeth, Grand Duchess of Olden 
burg, and Alexandra, Grand Duchess Constantine 
of Russia, he had had the honour of being presented 
to his witty and pious sovereign. The meeting 
seems to have impressed both parties very favour 
ably ; for, very shortly after it had taken place, our 
father received his living at Rocken " by supreme 
command." His joy may well be imagined, there 
fore, when a first son was born to him on his beloved 

* This Introduction by E. Forster-Nietzsche, which appears 
in the front of the first volume of Naumann s Pocket Edition of 
Nietzsche, has been translated and arranged by Mr. A. M. 


and august patron s birthday, and at the christening 
ceremony he spoke as follows : " Thou blessed 
month of October ! for many years the most 
decisive events in my life have occurred within thy 
thirty-one days, and now I celebrate the greatest 
and most glorious of them all by baptising my 
little boy ! O blissful moment ! O exquisite 
festival ! O unspeakably holy duty ! In the 
Lord s name I bless thee ! With all my heart 
I utter these words : Bring me this, my beloved 
child, that I may consecrate it unto the Lord. 
My son, Frederick William, thus shalt thou be 
named on earth, as a memento of my royal 
benefactor on whose birthday thou wast born ! " 

Our father was thirty-one years of age, and our 
mother not quite nineteen, when my brother was 
born. Our mother, who was the daughter of a 
clergyman, was good-looking and healthy, and was 
one of a very large family of sons and daughters. 
Our paternal grandparents, the Rev. Oehler and 
his wife, in Pobles, were typically healthy people. 
Strength, robustness, lively dispositions, and a 
cheerful outlook on life, were among the qualities 
which every one was pleased to observe in them. 
Our grandfather Oehler was a bright, clever man, 
and quite the old style of comfortable country 
parson, who thought it no sin to go hunting. 
He scarcely had a day s illness in his life, and would 
certainly not have met with his end as early as he 
did that is to say, before his seventieth year if 
his careless disregard of all caution, where his 
health was concerned, had not led to his catching 
a severe and fatal cold. In regard to our grand- 


mother Oehler, who died in her eighty-second year, 
all that can be said is, that if all German women 
were possessed of the health she enjoyed, the 
German nation would excel all others from the 
standpoint of vitality. She bore our grandfather 
eleven children ; gave each of them the breast for 
nearly the whole of its first year, and reared them 
all. It is said that the sight of these eleven 
children, at ages varying from nineteen years to one 
month, with their powerful build, rosy cheeks, beam 
ing eyes, and wealth of curly locks, provoked the 
admiration of all visitors. Of course, despite their 
extraordinarily good health, the life of this family 
was not by any means all sunshine. Each of the 
children was very spirited, wilful, and obstinate, and 
it was therefore no simple matter to keep them in 
order. Moreover, though they always showed the 
utmost respect and most implicit obedience to their 
parents even as middle-aged men and women 
misunderstandings between themselves were of con 
stant occurrence. Our Oehler grandparents were 
fairly well-to-do ; for our grandmother hailed from 
a very old family, who had been extensive land 
owners in the neighbourhood of Zeitz for centuries, 
and her father owned the baronial estate of Wehlitz 
and a magnificent seat near Zeitz in Pacht. When 
she married, her father gave her carriages and 
horses, a coachman, a cook, and a kitchenmaid, 
which for the wife of a German minister was then, 
and is still, something quite exceptional. As a 
result of the wars in the beginning of the nine 
teenth century, however, our great-grandfather 
lost the greater part of his property. 


Our father s family was also in fairly comfortable 
circumstances, and likewise very large. Our grand 
father Dr. Nietzsche (D.D. and Superintendent) 
married twice, and had in all twelve children, of 
whom three died young. Our grandfather on this 
side, whom I never knew, must certainly have been 
a distinguished, dignified, very learned and reserved 
man; his second wife our beloved grandmother 
was an active-minded, intelligent, and exceptionally 
good-natured woman. The whole of our father s 
family, which I only got to know when they were 
very advanced in years, were remarkable for their 
great power of self-control, their lively interest in 
intellectual matters, and a strong sense of family 
unity, which manifested itself both in their splen 
did readiness to help one another and in their very 
excellent relations with each other. Our father 
was the youngest son, and, thanks to his un 
commonly lovable disposition, together with other 
gifts, which only tended to become more marked 
as he grew older, he was quite the favourite of 
the family. Blessed with a thoroughly sound 
constitution, as all averred who knew him at the 
convent-school in Rossleben, at the University, or 
later at the ducal court of Altenburg, he was tall 
and slender, possessed an undoubted gift for poetry 
and real musical talent, and was moreover a man 
of delicate sensibilities, full of consideration for his 
whole family, and distinguished in his manners. 

My brother often refers to his Polish descent, and 
in later years he even instituted research-work with 
the view of establishing it, which met with partial 
success. I know nothing definite concerning these 


investigations, because a large number of valuable 
documents were unfortunately destroyed after his 
breakdown in Turin. The family tradition was 
that a certain Polish nobleman Nicki (pronounced 
Nietzky) had obtained the special favour of 
Augustus the Strong, King of Poland, and had 
received the rank of Earl from him. When, how 
ever, Stanislas Leszcysski the Pole became king, 
our supposed ancestor became involved in a con 
spiracy in favour of the Saxons and Protestants. 
He was sentenced to death ; but, taking flight, 
according to the evidence of the documents, he was 
ultimately befriended by a certain Earl of Briihl, 
who gave him a small post in an obscure little 
provincial town. Occasionally our aged aunts 
would speak of our great-grandfather Nietzsche, 
who was said to have died in his ninety-first year, 
and words always seemed to fail them when they 
attempted to describe his handsome appearance, 
good breeding, and vigour. Our ancestors, both 
on the Nietzsche and the Oehler side, were very 
long-lived. Of the four pairs of great-grandparents, 
one great-grandfather reached the age of ninety, 
five great-grandmothers and -fathers died between 
eighty-two and eighty-six years of age, and two only 
failed to reach their seventieth year. 

The sorrow which hung as a cloud over our 
branch of the family was our father s death, as the 
result of a heavy fall, at the age of thirty-eight. 
One night, upon leaving some friends whom he had 
accompanied home, he was met at the door of the 
vicarage by our little dog. The little animal must 
have got between his feet, for he stumbled and fell 


backwards down seven stone steps on to the paving- 
stones of the vicarage courtyard. As a result of 
this fall, he was laid up with concussion of the brain, 
and, after a lingering illness, which lasted eleven 
months, he died on the 3Oth of July 1849. The 
early death of our beloved and highly-gifted father 
spread gloom over the whole of our childhood. In 
1850 our mother withdrew with us to Naumburg 
on the Saale, where she took up her abode with our 
widowed grandmother Nietzsche ; and there she 
brought us up with Spartan severity and simplicity, 
which, besides being typical of the period, was 
quite de rigeur in her family. Of course, Grand 
mamma Nietzsche helped somewhat to temper her 
daughter-in-law s severity, and in this respect our 
Oehler grandparents, who were less rigorous with 
us, their eldest grandchildren, than with their own 
children, were also very influential. Grandfather 
Oehler was the first who seems to have recognised 
the extraordinary talents of his eldest grandchild. 
From his earliest childhood upwards, my brother 
was always strong and healthy ; he often declared 
that he must have been taken for a peasant-boy 
throughout his childhood and youth, as he was so 
plump, brown, and rosy. The thick fair hair which 
fell picturesquely over his shoulders tended some 
what to modify his robust appearance. Had he not 
possessed those wonderfully beautiful, large, and 
expressive eyes, however, and had he not been so 
very ceremonious in his manner, neither his teachers 
nor his relatives would ever have noticed anything 
at all remarkable about the boy ; for he was both 
modest and reserved. 


He received his early schooling at a preparatory 
school, and later at a grammar school in Naumburg. 
In the autumn of I 858, when he was fourteen years 
of age, he entered the Fforta school, so famous for 
the scholars it has produced. There, too, very 
severe discipline prevailed, and much was exacted 
from the pupils, with the view of inuring them to 
great mental and physical exertions. Thus, if my 
brother seems to lay particular stress upon the value 
of rigorous training, free from all sentimentality, it 
should be remembered that he speaks from experi 
ence in this respect. At Pforta he followed the 
regular school course, and he did not enter a uni 
versity until the comparatively late age of twenty. 
His extraordinary gifts manifested themselves 
chiefly in his independent and private studies and 
artistic efforts. As a boy his musical talent had 
already been so noticeable, that he himself and other 
competent judges were doubtful as to whether he 
ought not perhaps to devote himself altogether to 
music. It is, however, worth noting that everything 
he did in his later years, whether in Latin, Greek, or 
German work, bore the stamp of perfection subject 
of course to the limitation imposed upon him by his 
years. His talents came very suddenly to the fore, 
because he had allowed them to grow for such a 
long time in concealment. His very first perform 
ance in philology, executed while he was a student 
under Ritschl, the famous philologist, was also 
typical of him in this respect, seeing that it was 
ordered to be printed for the Rheinische Museum. 
Of course this was done amid general and grave ex 
pressions of doubt; for, as Dr. Ritschl often declared, 


it was an unheard-of occurrence for a student in his 
third term to prepare such an excellent treatise. 

Being a great lover of out-door exercise, such as 
swimming, skating,and walking, he developed into a 
very sturdy lad. Rohde gives the following descrip 
tion of him as a student : with his healthy com 
plexion, his outward and innercleanliness,hisaustere 
chastity and his solemn aspect, he was the image of 
that delightful youth described by Adalbert Stifter. 

Though as a child he was always rather serious, 
as a lad and a man he was ever inclined to see the 
humorous side of things, while his whole being, and 
everything he said or did, was permeated by an 
extraordinary harmony. He belonged to the very 
few who could control even a bad mood and conceal 
it from others. All his friends are unanimous in 
their praise of his exceptional evenness of temper 
and behaviour, and his warm, hearty, and pleasant 
laugh that seemed to come from the very depths 
of his benevolent and affectionate nature. In him 
it might therefore be said, nature had produced a 
being who in body and spirit was a harmonious 
whole : his unusual intellect was fully in keeping 
with his uncommon bodily strength. 

The only abnormal thing about him, and some 
thing which we both inherited from our father, was 
short-sightedness, and this was very much aggra 
vated in my brother s case,even in his earliest school 
days, owing to that indescribable anxiety to learn 
which always characterised him. When one listens 
to accounts given by his friends and schoolfellows, 
one is startled by the multiplicity of his studies even 
in his schooldays. 


In the autumn of I 864, he began his university 
life in Bonn, and studied philology and theology ; 
at the end of six months he gave up theology, and 
in the autumn of 1865 followed his famous teacher 
Ritschl to the University of Leipzig. There he 
became an ardent philologist, and diligently sought 
to acquire a masterly grasp of this branch of know 
ledge. But in this respect it would be unfair to 
forget that the school of Pforta, with its staff of 
excellent teachers scholars that would have 
adorned the chairs of any University had already 
afforded the best of preparatory trainings to any one 
intending to take up philology as a study, more 
particularly as it gave all pupils ample scope to 
indulge any individual tastes they might have for 
any particular branch of ancient history. The last 
important Latin thesis which my brother wrote for 
the Landes-Schule, Pforta, dealt with the Megarian 
poet Theognis, and it was in the rdle of a lecturer 
on this very subject that, on the 1 8th January 
1866, he made his first appearance in public, before 
the philological society he had helped to found in 
Leipzig. The paper he read disclosed his investiga 
tions on the subject of Theognis the moralist and 
aristocrat, who, as is well known, described and dis 
missed the plebeians of his time in terms of the 
heartiest contempt. The aristocratic ideal, which 
was always so dear to my brother, thus revealed 
itself for the first time. Moreover, curiously enough, 
it was precisely this scientific thesis which was the 
cause of Ritschl s recognition of my brother and 
fondness for him. 

The whole of his Leipzig days proved of the 


utmost importance to my brother s career. There 
he was plunged into the very midst of a torrent 
of intellectual influences which found an impression 
able medium in the fiery youth, and to which he 
eagerly made himself accessible. He did not, 
however, forget to discriminate among them, but 
tested and criticised the currents of thought he 
encountered, and selected accordingly. It is 
certainly of great importance to ascertain what 
those influences precisely were to which he yielded, 
and how long they maintained their sway over him, 
and it is likewise necessary to discover exactly 
when the matured mind threw off these fetters in 
order to work out its own salvation. 

The influences that exercised power over him 
in those days may be described in the three follow 
ing terms: Hellenism, Schopenhauer, Wagner. His 
love of Hellenism certainly led him to philology ; 
but, as a matter of fact, what concerned him most 
was to obtain a wide view of things in general, 
and this he hoped to derive from that science ; 
philology in itself, with his splendid method and 
thorough way of going to work, served him only 
as a means to an end. 

If Hellenism was the first strong influence which 
already in Pforta obtained a sway over my brother, 
in the winter of 1865-66, a completely new, and 
therefore somewhat subversive, influence was intro 
duced into his life with Schopenhauer s philosophy. 
When he reached Leipzig in the autumn of 1865, 
he was very downcast ; for the experiences that 
had befallen him during his one year of student 
life in Bonn had deeply depressed him. He had 


soaght at first to adapt himself to his surround 
ings there, with the hope of ultimately elevating 
them to his lofty views on things ; but both these 
efforts proved vain, and now he had come to 
Leipzig with the purpose of framing his own 
manner of life. It can easily be imagined how 
the first reading of Schopenhauer s The World ns 
Will and Idea worked upon this man, still sting 
ing from the bitterest experiences and disappoint 
ments. He writes : " Here I saw a mirror in 
which I espied the world, life, and my own nature 
depicted with frightful grandeur." As my brother, 
from his very earliest childhood, had always missed 
both the parent and the educator through our 
father s untimely death, he began to regard 
Schopenhauer with almost filial love and respect. 
He did not venerate him quite as other men did ; 
Schopenhauer s personality was what attracted and 
enchanted him. From the first he was never 
blind to the faults in his master s system, and in 
proof of this we have only to refer to an essay he 
wrote in the autumn of 1867, which actually con 
tains a criticism of Schopenhauer s philosophy. 

Now, in the autumn of 1865, to these two 
influences, Hellenism and Schopenhauer, a third 
influence was added one which was to prove the 
strongest ever exercised over my brother and it 
began with his personal introduction to Richard 
Wagner. He was introduced to Wagner by the 
latter s sister, Frau Professor Brockhaus, and his 
description of their first meeting, contained in a 
letter to Erwin Rohde, is really most affecting. 
For years, that is to say, from the time Billow s 


arrangement of Tristan and Isolde for the pianoforte, 
had appeared, he had already been a passionate 
admirer of Wagner s music ; but now that the 
artist himself entered upon the scene of his life, 
with the whole fascinating strength of his strong 
will, my brother felt that he was in the presence 
of a being whom he, of all modern men, resembled 
most in regard to force of character. 

Again, in the case of Richard Wagner, my 
brother, from the first, laid the utmost stress upon 
the man s personality, and could only regard his 
works and views as an expression of the artist s 
whole being, despite the fact that he by no means 
understood every one of those works at that time. 
My brother was the first who ever manifested 
such enthusiastic affection for Schopenhauer and 
Wagner, and he was also the first of that numer 
ous band of young followers who ultimately in 
scribed the two great names upon their banner. 
Whether Schopenhauer and Wagner ever really 
corresponded to the glorified pictures my brother 
painted of them, both in his letters and other 
writings, is a question which we can no longer 
answer in the affirmative. Perhaps what he saw 
in them was only what he himself wished to be 
some day. 

The amount of work my brother succeeded in 
accomplishing, during his student days, really 
seems almost incredible. When we examine his 
record for the years 186567, we can scarcely 
believe it refers to only two years industry, for 
at a guess no one would hesitate to suggest four 
years at least. But in those days, as he himself 


declares, he still possessed the constitution of a 
bear. He knew neither what headaches nor in 
digestion meant, and, despite his short sight, his 
eyes were able to endure the greatest strain with 
out giving him the smallest trouble. That is why, 
regardless of seriously interrupting his studies, he 
was so glad at the thought of becoming a soldier 
in the forthcoming autumn of 1867; for he was 
particularly anxious to discover some means of 
employing his bodily strength. 

He discharged his duties as a soldier with the 
utmost mental and physical freshness, was the 
crack rider among the recruits of his year, and 
was sincerely sorry when, owing to an accident, 
he was compelled to leave the colours before the 
completion of his service. As a result of this 
accident he had his first dangerous illness. 

While mounting his horse one day, the beast, 
which was an uncommonly restive one, suddenly 
reared, and, causing him to strike his chest sharply 
against the pommel of the saddle, threw him to 
the ground. My brother then made a second 
attempt to mount, and succeeded this time, not 
withstanding the fact that he had severely sprained 
and torn two muscles in his chest, and had seri 
ously bruised the adjacent ribs. For a whole day 
he did his utmost to pay no heed to the injury, 
and to overcome the pain it caused him ; but in 
the end he only swooned, and a dangerously acute 
inflammation of the injured tissues was the result. 
Ultimately he was obliged to consult the famous 
specialist, Professor Volkmann, in Halle, who 
quickly put him right. 


In October 1868, my brother returned to his 
studies in Leipzig with double joy. These were 
his plans: to get his doctor s degree as soon as 
possible ; to proceed to Paris, Italy, and Greece , 
make a lengthy stay in each place, and then 
to return to Leipzig in order to settle there as a 
privat docent. All these plans were, however, 
suddenly frustrated owing to his premature call 
Lo the University of Bale, where he was invited 
to assume the duties of professor. Some of the 
philological essays he had written in his student 
days, and which were published by the Rheinische 
Museum, had attracted the attention of the 
Educational Board at Bale. Ratsherr Wilhelm 
Vischer, as representing this body, appealed to 
Ritschl for fuller information. Now Ritschl, who 
had early recognised my brother s extraordinary 
talents, must have written a letter of such enthusi 
astic praise (" Nietzsche is a genius : he can do 
whatever he chooses to put his mind to "), that 
one of the more cautious members of the council 
is said to have observed : " If the proposed 
candidate be really such a genius, then it were 
better did we not appoint him ; for, in any case, 
he would only stay a short time at the little 
University of Bale." My brother ultimately 
accepted the appointment, and, in view of his 
published philological works, he was immediately 
granted the doctor s degree by the University of 
Leipzig. He was twenty-four years and six 
months old when he took up his position as 
professor in Bale, and it was with a heavy heart 
that he proceeded there, for he knew " the golden 


period of untrammelled activity " must cease. He 
was, however, inspired by the deep wish of bein^ 
able " to transfer to his pupils some of that 
Schopenhauerian earnestness which is stamped 
on the brow of the sublime man." " I should like 
to be something more than a mere trainer of 
capable philologists : the present generation of 
teachers, the care of the growing broods, all this 
is in my mind. If we must live, let us at least 
do so in such wise that others may bless our life 
once we have been peacefully delivered from its 

When I look back upon that month of May 
I 869, and ask both of friends and of myself, what 
the figure of this youthful University professor of 
four-and-twenty meant to the world at that time, 
the reply is naturally, in the first place : that he 
was one of Ritschl s best pupils ; secondly, that he 
was an exceptionally capable exponent of classical 
antiquity with a brilliant career before him ; and 
thirdly, that he was a passionate adorer of Wagner 
and Schopenhauer. But no one has any idea of 
my brother s independent attitude to the science 
he had selected, to his teachers and to his ideals, 
and he decewed both himself and us when he 
passed as a " disciple " who really shared all the 
views of his respected master. 

On the 28th May 1869, my brother delivered 
his inaugural address at Bale University, and it is 
said to have deeply impressed the authorities. 
The subject of the address was " Homer and 
Classical Philology." 

Musing deeply, the worthy councillors and 


professors walked homeward. What had they 
just heard ? A young scholar discussing the very 
justification of his own science in a cool and 
philosophically critical spirit ! A man able to 
impart so much artistic glamour to his subject, 
that the once stale and arid study of philology 
suddenly struck them and they were certainly 
not impressionable men as the messenger of the 
gods : " and just as the Muses descended upon the 
dull and tormented Boeotian peasants, so phil 
ology comes into a world full of gloomy colours and 
pictures, full of the deepest, most incurable woes, 
and speaks to men comfortingly of the beautiful 
and brilliant godlike figure of a distant, blue, and 
happy fairyland." 

" We have indeed got hold of a rare bird, 
Herr Ratsherr," said one of these gentlemen to 
his companion, and the latter heartily agreed, for 
my brother s appointment had been chiefly his 

Even in Leipzig, it was reported that Jacob 
Burckhardt had said : " Nietzsche is as much an 
artist as a scholar." Privy-Councillor Ritschl 
told me of this himself, and then he added, with 
a smile : " I always said so ; he can make his 
scientific discourses as palpitatingly interesting as 
a French novelist his novels." 

" Homer and Classical Philology " - my 
brother s inaugural address at the University 
was by no means the first literary attempt 
he had made; for we have already seen that 
he had had papers published by the Rheinische 
Museum ; still, this particular discourse is import- 


ant, seeing that it practically contains the pro 
gramme of many other subsequent essays. I 
must, however, emphasise this fact here, that 
neither " Homer and Classical Philology," nor 
The Birth of Tragedy, represents a beginning 
in my brother s career. It is really surprising to 
see how very soon he actually began grappling 
with the questions which were to prove the 
problems of his life. If a beginning to his 
intellectual development be sought at all, then 
it must be traced to the years 1865-67 in 
Leipzig. TJie Birth of Tragedy, his maiden 
attempt at book-writing, with which he began his 
twenty-eighth year, is the last link of a long 
chain of developments, and the first fruit that was 
a long time coming to maturity. Nietzsche s 
was a polyphonic nature, in which the most 
different and apparently most antagonistic tal 
ents had come together. Philosophy, art, and 
science in the form of philology, then each 
certainly possessed a part of him. The most 
wonderful feature perhaps it might even be 
called the real Nietzschean feature of this 
versatile creature, was the fact that no eternal 
strife resulted from the juxtaposition of these 
inimicial traits, that not one of them strove to 
dislodge, or to get the upper hand of, the others. 
When Nietzsche renounced the musical career, in 
order to devote himself to philology, and gave 
himself up to the most strenuous study, he did 
not find it essential completely to suppress his 
other tendencies : as before, he continued both to 
compose and derive pleasure from music, and 


even studied counterpoint somewhat seriously. 
Moreover, during his years at Leipzig, when he 
consciously gave himself up to philological re 
search, he began to engross himself in Schopen 
hauer, and was thereby won by philosophy for 
ever. Everything that could find room took up 
its abode in him, and these juxtaposed factors, 
far from interfering with one another s existence, 
were rather mutually fertilising and stimulating. 
All those who have read the first volume of the 
biography with attention must have been struck 
with the perfect way in which the various impulses 
in his nature combined in the end to form one 
general torrent, and how this flowed with ever 
greater force in the direction of a single goal. 
Thus science, art, and philosophy developed and 
became ever more closely related in him, until, 
in The Birth of Tragedy, they brought forth a 
" centaur," that is to say, a work which would 
have been an impossible achievement to a man 
with only a single, special talent. This polyphony 
of different talents, all coming to utterance 
together and producing the richest and boldest 
of harmonies, is the fundamental feature not only 
of Nietzsche s early days, but of his whole 
development. It is once again the artist, 
philosopher, and man of science, who as one 
man in later years, after many wanderings, re 
cantations, and revulsions of feeling, produces 
that other and rarer Centaur of highest rank 

The Birth of Tragedy requires perhaps a little 
explaining more particularly as we have now 


ceased to use either Schopenhauerian or Wagnerian 
terms of expression. And it was for this reason 
that five years after its appearance, my brother 
wrote an introduction to it, in which he very 
plainly expresses his doubts concerning the views 
it contains, and the manner in which they are 
presented. The kernel of its thought he always 
recognised as perfectly correct ; and all he de 
plored in later days was that he had spoiled the 
grand problem of Hellenism, as he understood it, 
by adulterating it with ingredients taken from the 
world of most modern ideas. As time went on, he 
grew ever more and more anxious to define the 
deep meaning of this book with greater precision 
and clearness. A very good elucidation of its 
aims, which unfortunately was never published, 
appears among his notes of the year 1886, and 
is as follows : 

" Concerning The Birth of Tragedy. A book 
consisting of mere experiences relating to pleasur 
able and unpleasurable aesthetic states, with a 
metaphysico-artistic background. At the same 
time the confession of a romanticist (the suffered 
feels the deepest longing for beauty he begets if) ; 
finally, a product of youth, full of youthful courage 
and melancholy. 

" Fundamental psychological experiences : the 
word Apollonian stands for that state of rapt 
repose in the presence of a visionary world, in the 
presence of the world of beautiful appearance 
designed as a deliverance from becoming 1 : the 
word Dionysos, on the other hand, stands for 
strenuous becoming, grown self-conscious, in the 


form of the rampant voluptuousness of the creator, 
who is also perfectly conscious of the violent anger 
of the destroyer. 

" The antagonism of these two attitudes and 
the desires that underlie them. The first-named 
would have the vision it conjures up eternal: in 
its light man must be quiescent, apathetic, peace 
ful, healed, and on friendly terms with himself and 
all existence ; the second strives after creation, 
after the voluptuousness of wilful creation, i.e. 
constructing and destroying. Creation felt and 
explained as an instinct would be merely the 
unremitting inventive action of a dissatisfied 
being, overflowing with wealth and living at high 
tension and high pressure, of a God who would 
overcome the sorrows of existence by means 
only of continual changes and transformations, 
appearance as a transient and momentary deliver 
ance ; the world as an apparent sequence of 
godlike visions and deliverances. 

" This metaphysico-artistic attitude is opposed 
to Schopenhauer s one-sided view, which values 
art, not from the artist s standpoint but from the 
spectator s, because it brings salvation and deliver 
ance by means of the joy produced by unreal as 
opposed to the existing or the real (the experi 
ence only of him who is suffering and is in 
despair owing to himself and everything existing). 
Deliverance in ft\& form and its eternity (just as 
Plato may have pictured it, save that he rejoiced 
in a complete subordination of all too excitable 
sensibilities, even in the idea itself). To this is 
opposed the second point of view art regarded 


as a phenomenon of the artist, above all of the 
musician : the torture of being obliged to create, 
as a Dionysian instinct. 

" Tragic art, rich in both attitudes, represents 
the reconciliation of Apollo and Dionysos. 
Appearance is given the greatest importance by 
Dionysos ; and yet it will be denied and cheerfully 
denied. This is directed against Schopenhauer s 
teaching of Resignation as the tragic attitude 
towards the world. 

" Against Wagner s theory that music is a 
means and drama an end. 

" A desire for tragic myth (for religion and even 
pessimistic religion) as for a forcing frame in 
which certain plants flourish. 

" Mistrust of science, although its ephemerally 
soothing optimism be strongly felt ; the serenity 
of the theoretical man. 

" Deep antagonism to Christianity. Why ? 
The degeneration of the Germanic spirit is ascribed 
to its influence. 

" Any justification of the world can only be 
an esthetic one. Profound suspicions about 
morality ( it is part and parcel of the world t of 

" The happiness of existence is only possible as 
the happiness derived from appearance. ({ Being* 
is a fiction invented by those who suffer from 

" Happiness in becoming is possible only in 
the annihilation of the real, of the existing/ 
of the beautifully visionary, in the pessimistic 
dissipation of illusions : with the annihilation 


of the most beautiful phenomena in the world 
of appearance, Dionysian happiness reaches its 

The Birth of Tragedy is really only a portion 
of a much greater work on Hellenism, which my 
brother had always had in view from the time 
of his student days. But even the portion it 
represents was originally designed upon a much 
larger scale than the present one ; the reason 
probably being, that Nietzsche desired only to be 
of service to Wagner. When a certain portion 
of the projected work on Hellenism was ready 
and had received the title Greek Cheerfulness, 
my brother happened to call upon Wagner at 
Tribschen in April 1871, and found him very 
low-spirited in regard to the mission of his life. 
My brother was very anxious to take some decis 
ive step to help him, and, laying the plans of his 
great work on Greece aside, he selected a small 
portion from the already completed manuscript 
a portion dealing with one distinct side of 
Hellenism, to wit, its tragic art. He then 
associated Wagner s music with it and the name 
Dionysos, and thus took the first step towards 
that world-historical view through which we have 
since grown accustomed to regard Wagner. 

From the dates of the various notes relating 
to it, The Birth of Tragedy must have been written 
between the autumn of 1869 and November 
187 1 a period during which " a mass of aesthetic 
questions and answers " was fermenting in 
Nietzsche s mind. It was first published in 
January 1872 by E. W. Fritsch, in Leipzig, 


under the title The Birth of Tragedy out of 
the Spirit of Music. Later on the title was 
changed to The Birth of Tragedy^ or Hellenism 
and Pessimism. 

WEIMAR, September 190$. 



WHATEVER may lie at the bottom of this doubt 
ful book must be a question of the first rank 
and attractiveness, moreover a deeply personal 
question, in proof thereof observe the time 
in which it originated, in spite of which it origin 
ated, the exciting period of the Franco-German 
war of 1870-71. While the thunder of the 
battle of Worth rolled over Europe, the ruminator 
and riddle-lover, who had to be the parent of this 
book, sat somewhere in a nook of the Alps, lost in 
riddles and ruminations, consequently very much 
concerned and unconcerned at the same time, and 
wrote down his meditations on the Greeks, the 
kernel of the curious and almost inaccessible book, 
to which this belated prologue (or epilogue) is to 
be devoted. A few weeks later : and he found 
himself under the walls of Metz, still wrestling 
with the notes of interrogation he had set down 
concerning the alleged " cheerfulness " of the Greeks 
and of Greek art ; till at last, in that month of 


deep suspense, when peace was debated at Ver 
sailles, he too attained to peace with himself, and, 
slowly recovering from a disease brought home 
from the field, made up his mind definitely re 
garding the " Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of 
Music." From music? Music and Tragedy? 
Greeks and tragic music? Greeks and the Art 
work of pessimism ? A race of men, well-fashioned, 
beautiful, envied, life-inspiring, like no other race 
hitherto, the Greeks indeed ? The Greeks were 
in need of tragedy ? Yea of art ? Wherefore 
Greek art ? ... 

We can thus guess where the great note of 
interrogation concerning the value of existence 
had been set. Is pessimism necessarily the sign 
of decline, of decay, of failure, of exhausted and 
weakened instincts ? as was the case with the 
Indians, as is, to all appearance, the case with us 
" modern " men and Europeans ? Is there a pessi 
mism of strength ? An intellectual predilection for 
what is hard, awful, evil, problematical in exist 
ence, owing to well-being, to exuberant health, to 
fullness of existence ? Is there perhaps suffering 
in overfullness itself? A seductive fortitude with 
the keenest of glances, which yearns for the 
terrible, as for the enemy, the worthy enemy, with 
whom it may try its strength ? from whom it is 
willing to learn what " fear " is ? W r hat means 
tragic myth to the Greeks of the best, strongest, 
bravest era ? And the prodigious phenomenon of 
the Dionysian ? And that which was born there 
of, tragedy ? And again : that of which tragedy 
died, the Socratism of morality, the dialectics, 


contentedness and cheerfulness of the theoretical 
man indeed ? might not this very Socratism be 
a sign of decline, of weariness, of disease, of 
anarchically disintegrating instincts ? And the 
" Hellenic cheerfulness " of the later Hellenism 
merely a glowing sunset ? The Epicurean will 
counter to pessimism merely a precaution of the 
sufferer? And science itself, our science ay, 
viewed as a symptom of life, what really signifies 
all science ? Whither, worse still, whence all 
science? Well? Is scientism perhaps only fear 
and evasion of pessimism ? A subtle defence 
against truth ? Morally speaking, something 
like falsehood and cowardice? And, unmorally 
speaking, an artifice? O Socrates, Socrates, was 
this perhaps tJiy secret ? Oh mysterious ironist, 
was this perhaps thine irony ? . . . 


What I then laid hands on, something terriblr 
and dangerous, a problem with horns, not neces 
sarily a bull itself, but at all events a new problem : 
I should say to-day it was the problem of science 
itself science conceived for the first time as prob 
lematic, as questionable. But the book, in which 
my youthful ardour and suspicion then discharged 
themselves what an impossible book must needs 
grow out of a task so disagreeable to youth. Con 
structed of nought but precocious, unripened self- 
experiences, all of which lay close to the threshold 
of the communicable, based on the groundwork of 


art for the problem of science cannot be discerned 
on the groundwork of science, a book perhaps for 
artists, with collateral analytical and retrospective 
aptitudes (that is, an exceptional kind of artists, 
for whom one must seek and does not even care 
to seek . . .), full of psychological innovations and 
artists secrets, with an artists metaphysics in the 
background, a work of youth, full of youth s mettle 
and youth s melancholy, independent, defiantly 
self-sufficient even when it seems to bow to some 
authority and self-veneration ; in short, a firstling- 
work, even in every bad sense of the term ; in 
spite of its senile problem, affected with every 
fault of youth, above all with youth s pro 
lixity and youth s " storm and stress " : on the 
other hand, in view of the success it had (especi 
ally with the great artist to whom it addressed 
itself, as it were, in a duologue, Richard Wagner) 
a demonstrated book, I mean a book which, at any 
rate, sufficed " for the best of its time." On this 
account, if for no other reason, it should be treated 
with some consideration and reserve ; yet I shall 
not altogether conceal how disagreeable it now 
appears to me, how after sixteen years it stands a 
total stranger before me, before an eye which is 
more mature, and a hundred times more fastidious, 
but which has by no means grown colder nor lost 
any of its interest in that self-same task essayed 
for the first time by this daring book, to view 
science through the optics of the artist, and art more 
over through the optics of Life. . . . 



I say again, to-day it is an impossible book to 
me, I call it badly written, heavy, painful, image- 
angling and image-entangling, maudlin, sugared 
at times even to femininism, uneven in tempo, 
void of the will to logical cleanliness, very con 
vinced and therefore rising above the necessity cf 
demonstration, distrustful even of the propriety of 
demonstration, as being a book for initiates, as 
" music " for those who are baptised with the 
name of Music, who are united from the beginning 
of things by common ties of rare experiences in 
art, as a countersign for blood-relations in artibus. 
a haughty and fantastic book, which from the 
very first withdraws even more from the pro- 
fanum vulgus of the " cultured " than from the 
" people," but which also, as its effect has shown 
and still shows, knows very well how to seek 
fellow-enthusiasts and lure them to new by-ways 
and dancing-grounds. Here, at any rate thus 
much was acknowledged with curiosity as well 
as with aversion a strange voice spoke, the 
disciple of a still " unknown God," who for the 
time being had hidden himself under the hood 
of the scholar, under the German s gravity and 
disinclination for dialectics, even under the bad 
manners of the Wagnerian ; here was a spirit 
with strange and still nameless needs, a memory 
bristling with questions, experiences and obscur 
ities, beside which stood the name Dionysos like 
one more note of interrogation ; here spoke 
people said to themselves with misgivings some- 


thing like a mystic and almost maenadic soul, 
which, undecided whether it should disclose or 
conceal itself, stammers with an effort and caprici 
ously as in a strange tongue. It should have 
sung, this " new soul " and not spoken ! What 
a pity, that I did not dare to say what I then had 
to say, as a poet : I could have done so perhaps ! 
Or at least as a philologist : for even at the 
present day well-nigh everything in this domain 
remains to be discovered and disinterred by the 
philologist ! Above all the problem, that here 
there is a problem before us, and that, so long 
as we have no answer to the question " what is 
Dionysian ? " the Greeks are now as ever wholly 
unknown and inconceivable , 

Ay, what is Dionysian? In this book may be 
found an answer, a " knowing one " speaks here, 
the votary and disciple of his god. Perhaps I 
should now speak more guardedly and less elo 
quently of a psychological question so difficult as 
the origin of tragedy among the Greeks. A 
fundamental question is the relation of the Greek 
to pain, his degree of sensibility, did this relation 
remain constant ? or did it veer about ? the ques 
tion, whether his ever-increasing longing for beauty, 
for festivals, gaieties, new cults, did really grow 
out of want, privation, melancholy, pain ? For 
suppose even this to be true and Pericles (or 
Thucydides) intimates as much in the great 
Funeral Speech : whence then the opposite 


longing, which appeared first in the order of time, 
the longing for the ugly, the good, resolute desire 
of the Old Hellene for pessimism, for tragic myth, 
for the picture of all that is terrible, evil, enig 
matical, destructive, fatal at the basis of existence, 
whence then must tragedy have sprung? Per- 
haps from j oj , from strength, from exuberant health, 
from over-fullness. And what then, physiologic 
ally speaking, is the meaning of that madness, 
out of which comic as well as tragic art has 
grown, the Dionysian madness ? What ? perhaps 
madness is not necessarily the symptom of 
degeneration, of decline, of belated culture? 
Perhaps there are a question for alienists 
neuroses of health? of folk-youth and -youthful- 
ness ? What does that synthesis of god and goat 
in the Satyr point to? What self-experience 
what " stress," made the Greek think of the 
Dionysian reveller and primitive man as a satyr ? 
And as regards the origin of the tragic chorus : 
perhaps there were endemic ecstasies in the eras 
when the Greek body bloomed and the Greek 
soul brimmed over with life ? Visions and hallu 
cinations, which took hold of entire communities, 
entire cult-assemblies ? What if the Greeks in the 
very wealth of their youth had the will to be tragic 
and were pessimists? W T hat if it was madness 
itself, to use a word of Plato s, which brought the 
greatest blessings upon Hellas? And what if, 
on the other hand and conversely, at the very 
time of their dissolution and weakness, the Greeks 
became always more optimistic, more superficial, 
more histrionic, also more ardent for logic and the 


logicising of the world, consequently at the same 
time more " cheerful " and more " scientific " ? 
Ay, despite all " modern ideas " and prejudices 
of the democratic taste, may not the triumph of 
optimism, the common sense that has gained the 
upper hand, the practical and theoretical utilitar 
ianism, like democracy itself, with which it is 
synchronous be symptomatic of declining vigour, 
of approaching age, of physiological weariness ? 
And not at all pessimism? Was Epicurus an 
optimist because a sufferer ? . . . We see it is a 
whole bundle of weighty questions which this book 
has taken upon itself, let us not fail to add its 
weightiest question ! Viewed through the optics 
of life, what is the meaning of morality ? . . . 


Already in the foreword to Richard Wagner, 
art and not morality is set down as the properly 
metaphysical activity of man ; in the book itself 
the piquant proposition recurs time and again, 
that the existence of the world is justified only as 
an aesthetic phenomenon. Indeed, the entire book 
recognises only an artist-thought and artist-after 
thought behind all occurrences, a " God," if you 
will, but certainly only an altogether thoughtless 
and unmoral artist-God, who, in construction as 
in destruction, in good as in evil, desires to 
become conscious of his own equable joy and 
sovereign glory ; who, in creating worlds, frees 
himself from the anguish of fullness and overfull- 
ness, from the suffering of the contradictions con- 


centrated within him. The world, that is, the 
redemption of God attained at every moment, as 
the perpetually changing, perpetually new vision 
of the most suffering, most antithetical, most 
contradictory being, who contrives to redeem him 
self only in appearance : this entire artist-meta 
physics, call it arbitrary, idle, fantastic, if you 
will, the point is, that it already betrays a spirit, 
which is determined some day, at all hazards, to 
make a stand against the moral interpretation 
and significance of life. Here, perhaps for the 
first time, a pessimism " Beyond Good and Evil " 
announces itself, here that " perverseness of dis 
position " obtains expression and formulation, 
against which Schopenhauer never grew tired of 
hurling beforehand his angriest imprecations and 
thunderbolts, a philosophy which dares to put, 
derogatorily put, morality itself in the world of 
phenomena, and not only among " phenomena " 
(in the sense of the idealistic terminus tecJinicus], 
but among the " illusions," as appearance, sem 
blance, error, interpretation, accommodation, art. 
Perhaps the depth of this antimoral tendency may 
be best estimated from the guarded and hostile 
silence with which Christianity is treated through 
out this book, Christianity, as being the most 
extravagant burlesque of the moral theme to which 
mankind has hitherto been obliged to listen. In 
fact, to the purely aesthetic world-interpretation 
and justification taught in this book, there is no 
greater antithesis than the Christian dogma, which 
is only and will be only moral, and which, with 
its absolute standards, for instance, its truthfulness 


of God, relegates that is, disowns, convicts, 
condemns art, all art, to the realm of falsehood. 
Behind such a mode of thought and valuation, 
which, if at all genuine, must be hostile to art, 
I always experienced what was hostile to life, the 
wrathful, vindictive counterwill to life itself: for 
all life rests on appearance, art, illusion, optics, 
necessity of perspective and error. From the very 
first Christianity was, essentially and thoroughly, 
the nausea and surfeit of Life for Life, which only 
disguised, concealed and decked itself out under 
the belief in "another" or "better" life. The 
hatred of the " world," the curse on the affections, 
the fear of beauty and sensuality, another world, 
invented for the purpose of slandering this world 
the more, at bottom a longing for Nothingness, 
for the end, for rest, for the " Sabbath of Sabbaths " 
all this, as also the unconditional will of 
Christianity to recognise only moral values, has 
always appeared to me as the most dangerous 
and ominous of all possible forms of a " will to 
perish " ; at the least, as the symptom of a most 
fatal disease, of profoundest weariness, despondency, 
exhaustion, impoverishment of life, for before 
the tribunal of morality (especially Christian, that 
is, unconditional morality) life must constantly 
and inevitably be the loser, because life is some 
thing essentially unmoral, indeed, oppressed 
with the weight of contempt and the everlasting 
No, life must finally be regarded as unworthy of 
desire, as in itself unworthy. Morality itself 
what ? may not morality be a " will to disown 
life," a secret instinct for annihilation, a principle 


of decay, of depreciation, of slander, a beginning 
of the end ? And, consequently, the danger oi 
dangers ? ... It was against morality, therefore, 
that my instinct, as an intercessory instinct for 
life, turned in this questionable book, inventing 
for itself a fundamental counter - dogma and 
counter-valuation of life, purely artistic, purely 
anti-Christian. What should I call it? As a 
philologist and man of words I baptised it, not 
without some liberty for who could be sure of the 
proper name of the Antichrist ? with the name of 
a Greek god : I called it Dionysian. 


You see which problem I ventured to touch upon 
in this early work ? . . . How I now regret, that I 
had not then the courage (or immodesty?) to allow 
myself, in all respects, the use of an individual 
language for such individual contemplations and 
ventures in the field of thought that I laboured to 
express, in Kantian and Schopenhauerian formula?, 
strange and new valuations, which ran fundament 
ally counter to the spirit of Kant and Schopen 
hauer, as well as to their taste ! What, forsooth, 
were Schopenhauer s views on tragedy ? " What 
gives " he says in Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 
II. 495 "to all tragedy that singular swing 
towards elevation, is the awakening of the know 
ledge that the world, that life, cannot satisfy 
us thoroughly, and consequently is not worthy of 
our attachment. In this consists the tragic spirit: 
it therefore leads to resignation" Oh, how 


differently Dionysos spoke to me ! Oh how fai 
from me then was just this entire resignationism ! 
But there is something far worse in this book, 
which I now regret even more than having 
obscured and spoiled Dionysian anticipations with 
Schopenhauerian formulae : to wit, that, in general, 
I spoiled the grand Hellenic problem^ as it had 
opened up before me, by the admixture of the 
most modern things ! That I entertained hopes, 
where nothing was to be hoped for, where every 
thing pointed all-too-clearly to an approaching 
end ! That, on the basis of our latter-day 
German music, I began to fable about the 
" spirit of Teutonism," as if it were on the point 
of discovering and returning to itself, ay, at the 
very time that the German spirit which not so 
very long before had had the will to the lordship 
over Europe, the strength to lead and govern 
Europe, testamentarily and conclusively resigned 
and, under the pompous pretence of empire-found 
ing, effected its transition to mediocritisation, 
democracy, and " modern ideas." In very fact, 
I have since learned to regard this "spirit 
of Teutonism " as something to be despaired 
of and unsparingly treated, as also our present 
German music, which is Romanticism through and 
through and the most un-Grecian of all possible 
forms of art : and moreover a first-rate nerve- 
destroyer, doubly dangerous for a people given 
to drinking and revering the unclear as a virtue, 
namely, in its two-fold capacity of an intoxi 
cating and stupefying narcotic. Of course, apart 
from all precipitate hopes and faulty applications 


to matters specially modern, with which I then 
spoiled my first book, the great Dionysian note 
of interrogation, as set down therein, continues 
standing on and on, even with reference to music : 
how must we conceive of a music, which is no longer 
of Romantic origin, like the German ; but of 
Dionysian ? . . . 


But, my dear Sir, if your book is not Roman 
ticism, what in the world is ? Can the deep hatred 
of the present, of " reality " and " modern ideas " 
be pushed farther than has been done in your 
artist-metaphysics? which would rather believe 
in Nothing, or in the devil, than in the " Now " ? 
Does not a radical bass of wrath and annihilative 
pleasure growl on beneath all your contrapuntal 
vocal art and aural seduction, a mad determination 
to oppose all that " now " is, a will which is not 
so very far removed from practical nihilism and 
which seems to say : " rather let nothing be true, 
than that you should be in the right, than that 
your truth should prevail ! " Hear, yourself, my 
dear Sir Pessimist and art-deifier, with ever so 
unlocked ears, a single select passage of your 
own booK, that not ineloquent dragon-slayer 
passage, which may sound insidiously rat-charm 
ing to young ears and hearts. What ? is not 
that the true blue romanticist-confession of 1830 
under the mask of the pessimism of 1850? After 
which, of course, the usual romanticist finale at once 
strike* up, rupture, collapse, return and prostra 
tion before an old belief, before the old God. . . . 


What ? is not your pessimist book itself a piece 
of anti- Hellenism and Romanticism, something 
" equally intoxicating and befogging," a narcotic 
at all events, ay, a piece of music, of German 
music ? But listen : 

Let us imagine a rising generation with this un- 
dauntedness of vision, with this heroic impulse towards 
the prodigious, let us imagine the bold step of these 
dragon -slayers, the proud daring with which they turn 
their backs on all the effeminate doctrines of optimism, in 
order " to live resolutely " in the Whole and in the Full : 
would it not be necessary for the tragic man of this 
culture, with his self-discipline to earnestness and terror, 
to desire a new art, the art of metaphysical comfort, 
tragedy as the Helena belonging to him, and that he 
should exclaim with Faust : 

" Und sollt ich nicht, sehnsiichtigster Gewalt, 
In s Leben ziehn die einzigste Gestalt?"* 

" Would it not be necessary ? " . . . No, thrice 
no ! ye young romanticists : it would not be 
necessary ! But it is very probable, that things 
may end thus, that ye may end thus, namely 
" comforted," as it is written, in spite of all self- 
discipline to earnestness and terror ; metaphysic 
ally comforted, in short, as Romanticists are wont 
to end, as Christians. . . . No ! ye should first 
of all learn the art of earthly comfort, ye should 
learn to laugh, my young friends, if ye are at 
all determined to remain pessimists : if so, you 

* And shall not I, by mightiest desire, 
In living shape that sole fair form acquire ? 

SWANWICK, trans, of Faust. 


will perhaps, as laughing ones, eventually send all 
metaphysical com fort ism to the devil and meta 
physics first of all ! Or, to say it in the language 
of that Dionysian ogre, called ZaratJiustra : 

" Lift up your hearts, my brethren, high, higher ! 
And do not forget your legs ! Lift up also your legs, ye 
good dancers and better still if ye stand also on your 
heads ! 

" This crown of the laughter, this rose-garland crown 
I myself have put on this crown ; I myself have 
consecrated my laughter. No one else have I found 
to-day strong enough for this. 

"Zarathustra the dancer, Zarathustra the light one, 
who beckoneth with his pinions, one ready for flight, 
beckoning unto all birds, ready and prepared, a bliss 
fully light-spirited one : 

" Zarathustra the soothsayer, Zarathustra the sooth- 
laugher, no impatient one, no absolute one, one who 
loveth leaps and side-leaps : I myself have put on this 
crown ! 

" This crown of the laughter, this rose-garland crown 
to you my brethren do I cast this crown ! Laughing 
have I consecrated : ye higher men, learn, I pray you 
to laugh ! " 

Thus spake Zarathustra^ Ixxiii. 17, 18, and 20. 

Au&ust 1886. 




IN order to keep at a distance all the possible 
scruples, excitements, and misunderstandings to 
which the thoughts gathered in this essay will 
give occasion, considering the peculiar character 
of our aesthetic publicity, and to be able also Co 
write the introductory remarks with the same 
contemplative delight, the impress of which, as 
the petrifaction of good and elevating hours, it 
bears on every page, I form a conception of the 
moment when you, my highly honoured friend, 
will receive this essay ; how you, say after an 
evening walk in the winter snow, will behold the 
unbound Prometheus on the title-page, read my 
name, and be forthwith convinced that, whatever 
this essay may contain, the author has something 
earnest and impressive to say, and, moreover, that 
in all his meditations he communed with you as 
with one present and could thus write only what 
befitted your presence. You will thus remember 
that it was at the same time as your magnificent 
dissertation on Beethoven originated, vi/., amidst 


the horrors and sublimities of the war which had 
just then broken out, that I collected myself for 
these thoughts. But those persons would err, to 
whom this collection suggests no more perhaps 
than the antithesis of patriotic excitement and 
aesthetic revelry, of gallant earnestness and 
sportive delight. Upon a real perusal of this 
essay, such readers will, rather to their surprise, 
discover how earnest is the German problem we 
have to deal with, which we properly place, as 
a vortex and turning-point, in the very midst of 
German hopes. Perhaps, however, this same 
class of readers will be shocked at seeing an 
aesthetic problem taken so seriously, especially if 
they can recognise in art no more than a merry 
diversion, a readily dispensable court-jester to the 
" earnestness of existence " : as if no one were 
aware of the real meaning of this confrontation 
with the "earnestness of existence." These 
earnest ones may be informed that I am convinced 
that art is the highest task and the properly 
metaphysical activity of this life, as it is under 
stood by the man, to whom, as my sublime 
protagonist on this path, I would now dedicate 
this essay. 

BASEL, end of the year 1871. 



WE shall have gained much for the science of 
aesthetics, when once we have perceived not only 
by logical inference, but by the immediate certainty 
of intuition, that the continuous development of 
art is bound up with the duplexity of the Apollonian 
and the Dionysian : in like manner as procreation 
is dependent on the duality of the sexes, involving 
perpetual conflicts with only periodically inter 
vening reconciliations. These names we borrow 
from the Greeks, who disclose to the intelligent 
observer the profound mysteries of their view of 
art, not indeed in concepts, but in the impressively 
clear figures of their world of deities. It is in 
connection with Apollo and Dionysus, the two art- 
deities of the Greeks, that we learn that there 
existed in the Grecian world a wide antithesis, in 
origin and aims, between the art of the shaper, the 
Apollonian, and the non-plastic art of music, that of 
Dionysus : both these so heterogeneous tendencies 
run parallel to each other, for the most part openly 
at variance, and continually inciting each other to 
new and more powerful births, to perpetuate in 


them the strife of this antithesis, which is but 
seemingly bridged over by their mutual term 
" Art " ; till at last, by a metaphysical miracle of 
the Hellenic will, they appear paired with each 
other, and through this pairing eventually generate 
the equally Dionysian and Apollonian art-work 
of Attic tragedy. 

In order to bring these two tendencies within 
closer range, let us conceive them first of all as the 
separate art-worlds of dreamland and drunkenness ; 
between which physiological phenomena a con 
trast may be observed analogous to that existing 
between the Apollonian and the Dionysian. In 
dreams, according to the conception of Lucretius, 
the glorious divine figures first appeared to the 
souls of men, in dreams the great shaper beheld the 
charming corporeal structure of superhuman beings, 
and the Hellenic poet, if consulted on the mysteries 
of poetic inspiration, would likewise have suggested 
dreams and would have offered an explanation resem 
bling that of Hans Sachs in the Meistersingers : 

Mein Freund, das grad ist Dichters Werk, 

dass er sein Traumen deut und merk . 

Glaubt mir, des Menschen wahrster Wahn 

wird ihm im Traume aufgethan : 

all Dichtkunst und Poeterei 

ist nichts als Wahrtraum-Deuterei.* 

* My friend, just this is poet s task : 
His dreams to read and to unmask. 
Trust me, illusion s truths thrice sealed 
In dream to man will be revealed. 
All verse-craft and poetisation 
Is but soothdream interpretation. 


The beauteous appearance of the dream-worlds, 
in the production of which every man is a perfect 
artist, is the presupposition of all plastic art, and 
in fact, as we shall see, of an important half of 
poetry also. We take delight in the immediate 
apprehension of form ; all forms speak to us ; there 
is nothing" indifferent, nothing superfluous. But, 
together with the highest life of this dream-reality 
we also have, glimmering through it, the sensation 
of its appearance : such at least is my experience, 
as to the frequency, ay, normality of which I 
could adduce many proofs, as also the sayings of 
the poets. Indeed, the man of philosophic turn 
has a foreboding that underneath this reality in 
which we live and have our being, another and 
altogether different reality lies concealed, and that 
therefore it is also an appearance ; and Schopen 
hauer actually designates the gift of occasionally 
regarding men and things as mere phantoms and 
dream-pictures as the criterion of philosophical 
ability. Accordingly, the man susceptible to art 
stands in the same relation to the reality of dreams 
as the philosopher to the reality of existence ; he 
is a close and willing observer, for from these 
pictures he reads the meaning of life, and by these 
processes he trains himself for life. And it is 
perhaps not orrfy the agreeable and friendly 
pictures that he realises in himself with such 
perfect understanding : the earnest, the troubled, 
the dreary, the gloomy, the sudden checks, the 
tricks of fortune, the uneasy presentiments, in 
short, the whole " Divine Comedy " of life, and 
the Inferno, also pass before him, not merely like 


pictures on the wall for he too lives and suffers 
in these scenes, and yet not without that fleeting 
sensation of appearance. And perhaps many a 
one will, like myself, recollect having sometimes 
called out cheeringly and not without success 
amid the dangers and terrors of dream-life : " It 
is a dream ! I will dream on ! " I have likewise 
been told of persons capable of continuing the 
causality of one and the same dream for three and 
even more successive nights : all of which facts 
clearly testify that our innermost being, the 
common substratum of all of us, experiences our 
dreams with deep joy and cheerful acquiescence. 

This cheerful acquiescence in the dream- 
experience has likewise been embodied by the 
Greeks in their Apollo : for Apollo, as the god of 
all shaping energies, is also the soothsaying god. 
He, who (as the etymology of the name indicates) 
is the " shining one," the deity of light, also rules 
over the fair appearance of the inner world of 
fantasies. The higher truth, the perfection of 
these states in contrast to the only partially 
intelligible everyday world, ay, the deep con 
sciousness of nature, healing and helping in sleep 
and dream, is at the same time the symbolical 
analogue of the faculty of soothsaying and, in 
general, of the arts, through which life is made 
possible and worth living. But also that delicate 
line, which the dream-picture must not overstep 
lest it act pathologically (in which case appear 
ance, being reality pure and simple, would impose 
upon us) must not be wanting in the picture of 
Apollo : that measured limitation, that freedom 


from the wilder emotions, that philosophical 
calmness of the sculptor-god. His eye must be 
" sunlike," according to his origin ; even when it 
is angry and looks displeased, the sacredness of 
his beauteous appearance is still there. And so 
we might apply to Apollo, in an eccentric sense, 
what Schopenhauer says of the man wrapt in 
the veil of Maya * : Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 
I. p. 416: "Just as in a stormy sea, unbounded 
in every direction, rising and falling with howling 
mountainous waves, a sailor sits in a boat and 
trusts in his frail barque : so in the midst of a 
world of sorrows the individual sits quietly sup 
ported by and trusting in his principium individu- 
ationis." Indeed, we might say of Apollo, that 
ii7~~Eirn the unshaken faith in this principium and 
the quiet sitting of the man wrapt therein have 
received their sublimest expression ; and we might 
even designate Apollo as the glorious divine image 
of the principium individuationis, from out of 
the gestures and looks of which all the joy and 
wisdom of " appearance," together with its beauty, 
speak to us. 

In the same work Schopenhauer has described 
to us the stupendous awe which seizes upon man, 
when of a sudden he is at a loss to account for 
the cognitive forms of a phenomenon, in that the 
principle of reason, in some one of its manifesta 
tions, seems to admit of an exception. Add to 
this awe the blissful ecstasy which rises from the 

* Cf. World and Will as Idea, \. 455 fif., trans, by Haldanc 
and Kemp. 


innermost depths of man, ay, of nature, at this 
same collapse of the principium individuationis^ 
and we shall gain an insight into the being of the 
Dionysian, which is brought within closest ken 
perhaps by the analogy of drunkenness. It is 
either under the influence of the narcotic draught, 
of which the hymns of all primitive men and 
peoples tell us, pr by the powerful approach of 
spring penetrating all nature with joy, that those 
Dionysian emotions awake, in the augmentation 
of which the subjective vanishes to complete self- 
forgetfulness. So also in the German" Middle 
Ages singing and dancing crowds, ever increasing 
in number, were borne from place to place under 
this same Dionysian power. In these St. John s 
and St. Vitus s dancers we again perceive the 
Bacchic choruses of the Greeks, with their previous 
history in Asia Minor, as far back as Babylon 
and the orgiastic Sacaea. There are some, who, 
from lack of experience or obtuseness, will turn 
away from such phenomena as " folk-diseases " 
with a smile of contempt or pity prompted by the 
consciousness of their own health : of course, the 
poor wretches do not divine what a cadaverous- 
looking and ghastly aspect this very " health " 
of theirs presents when the glowing life of the 
Dionysian revellers rushes past them. 

Under the charm of the Dionysian not only 
is the covenant between man and man again 
established, but also estranged, hostile or sub 
jugated nature again celebrates her reconciliation 
with her lost son, man. Of her own accord earth 
proffers her gifts, and peacefully the beasts of 


prey approach from the desert and the rocks. 
The chariot of Dionysus is bedecked with flowers 
and garlands : panthers and tigers pass beneath 
his yoke. Change Beethoven s " jubilee-song " 
into a painting, and, if your imagination be equal 
to the occasion when the awestruck millions sink 
into the dust, you will then be able to approach 
the Dionysian. Now is the slave a free man, 
now all the stubborn, hostile barriers, which neces 
sity, caprice, or " shameless fashion " has set up 
between man and man, are broken down. Now, 
at the evangel of cosmic harmony, each one feels 
himself not only united, reconciled, blended with 
his neighbour, but as one with him, as if the veil 
of Maya had been torn and were now merely 
fluttering in tatters before the mysterious 
Primordial Unity. In song and in dance man 
exhibits himself as a member of a higher com 
munity : he has forgotten how to walk and speak, 
and is on the point of taking a dancing flight 
into the air. His gestures bespeak enchantment. 
Even as the animals now talk, and as the earth 
yields milk and honey, so also something super 
natural sounds forth from him : he feels himself 
a god, he himself now walks about enchanted 
and elated even as the gods whom he saw 
walking about in his dreams. Man is no longer 
an artist, he has become a work of art : the 
artistic power of all nature here reveals itself 
in the tremors of drunkenness to the highest 
gratification of the Primordial Unity. The 
noblest clay, the costliest marble, namely man, 
is here kneaded and cut, and the chisel strokes of 


the Dionysian world-artist are accompanied with 
the cry of the Eleusinian mysteries : " Ihr stiirzt 
nieder, Millionen ? Ahnest du den Schopfer, 
Welt ? " * 

Thus far we have considered the Apollonian and 
his antithesis, the Dionysian, as ^artistic powers, 
which burst forth from nature herself, witTwut the 
mediation of the human artist, and in which her 
art-impulses are satisfied in the most immediate 
and direct way : first, as the pictorial world of 
dreams, the perfection of which has no connection 
whatever with the intellectual height or artistic 
culture of the unit man, and again, as drunken, 
reality, which likewise does not heed the unit 
man, but even seeks to destroy the individual 
and redeem him by a mystic feeling of Oneness. 
Anent these immediate art-states of nature very 
artist is either an " imitator," to wit, either an 
Apollonian, an artist in dreams, or a Dionysian, an 
artist in ecstasies, or finally as for instance in 
Greek tragedy an artist in both dreams and 
ecstasies : so we may perhaps picture him, as in 
his Dionysian drunkenness and mystical self- 
abnegation, lonesome and apart from the revelling 
choruses, he sinks down, and how now, through 
Apollonian dream-inspiration, his own state, i.e., 

* Ye bow in the dust, oh millions ? 
Thy maker, mortal, dost divine ? 

Cf. Schiller s "Hymn to Joy"; and Beethoven, Ninth 
Symphony. TR. 


his oneness with the primal source of the universe, 
reveals itself to him in a symbolical dream-picture. 

After these general premisings and contrastings, 
let us now approach the Greeks in order to learn 
in what degree and to what height these art- 
impulses of nature were developed in them : 
whereby we shall be enabled to understand and 
appreciate more deeply the relation of the Greek 
artist to his archetypes, or, according to the 
Aristotelian expression, " the imitation of nature." 
In spite of all the dream-literature and the 
numerous dream-anecdotes of the Greeks, we can 
speak only conjecturally, though with a fair degree 
of certainty, of their dreams. Considering the 
incredibly precise and unerring plastic power of 
their eyes, as also their manifest and sincere 
delight in colours, we can hardly refrain (to the 
shame of every one born later) from assuming for 
their very dreams a logical causality of lines and 
contours, colours and groups, a sequence of scenes 
resembling their best reliefs, the perfection of 
which would certainly justify us, if a comparison 
were possible, in designating the dreaming Greeks 
as Homers and Homer as a dreaming Greek : in 
a deeper sense than when modern man, in respect 
to his dreams, ventures to compare himself with 

On the other hand, we should not have to 
speak conjecturally, if asked to disclose the im 
mense gap which separated the Dionysian Greek 
from the Dionysian barbarian. From all quarters 
of the Ancient World to say nothing of the 
modern from Rome as far as Babylon, we can 


prove the existence of Dionysian festivals, the 
type of which bears, at best, the same relation to 
the Greek festivals as the bearded satyr, who 
borrowed his name and attributes from the goat, 
does to Dionysus himself. In nearly every 
instance the centre of these festivals lay in extra 
vagant sexual licentiousness, the waves of which 
overwhelmed all family life and its venerable 
traditions ; the very wildest beasts of nature were 
let loose here, including that detestable mixture 
of lust and cruelty which has always seemed to 
me the genuine " witches draught." For some 
time, however, it would seem that the Greeks 
were perfectly secure and guarded against the 
feverish agitations of these festivals ( the know 
ledge of which entered Greece by all the channels 
of land and sea) by the figure of Apollo himself 
rising here in full pride, who could not have held 
out the Gorgon s head to a more dangerous power 
than this grotesquely uncouth Dionysian. It is 
in Doric art that this majestically-rejecting atti 
tude of Apollo perpetuated itself. This opposition 
became more precarious and even impossible, 
when, from out of the deepest root of the Hellenic 
nature, similar impulses finally broke forth and 
made way for themselves : the Delphic god, by a 
seasonably effected reconciliation, was now con 
tented with taking the destructive arms from the 
hands of his powerful antagonist. This reconcilia 
tion marks the most important moment in the 
history of the Greek cult : wherever we turn our 
eyes we may observe the revolutions resulting from 
this event. It was the reconciliation of two anta- 


gonists, with the sharp demarcation of the 
boundary-lines to be thenceforth observed by 
each, and with periodical transmission of testi 
monials ; in reality, the chasm was not bridged 
over. But if we observe how, under the pressure 
of this conclusion of peace, the Dionysian power 
manifested itself, we shall now recognise in the 
Dionysian orgies of the Greeks, as compared with 
the Babylonian Sacaea and their retrogression of 
man to the tiger and the ape, the significance of 
festivals of world-redemption and days of trans 
figuration. Not till then does nature attain her 
artistic jubilee ; not till then does the rupture of 
t\\e principium individuationis become an artistic 
phenomenon. That horrible " witches draught " 
of sensuality and cruelty was here powerless : only 
the curious blending and duality in the emotions 
of the Dionysian revellers reminds one of it just 
as medicines remind one of deadly poisons, that 
phenomenon, to wit, that pains beget joy, that 
jubilation wrings painful sounds out of the breast. 
From the highest joy sounds the cry of horror or 
the yearning wail over an irretrievable loss. In 
these Greek festivals a sentimental trait, as it were, 
breaks forth from nature, as if she must sigh 
over her dismemberment into individuals. The 
song and pantomime of such dually-minded revel 
lers was something new and unheard-of in the 
Homeric-Grecian world : and the Dionysian music 
in particular excited awe and horror. If music, 
as it would seem, was previously known as an 
Apollonian art, it was, strictly speaking, only as 
the wave-beat of rhythm, the formative power of 


which was developed to the representation of Apol 
lonian conditions. The music of Apollo was 
Doric architectonics in tones, but in merely 
suggested tones, such as those of the cithara. 
The very element which forms the essence of 
Dionysian music (and hence of music in general) 
is carefully excluded as un-Apollonian ; namely, 
the thrilling power of the tone, the uniform stream 
of the melos, and the thoroughly incomparable 
world of harmony. In the Dionysian dithyramb 
man is incited to the highest exaltation of all 
his symbolic faculties ; something never before 
experienced struggles for utterance the annihila 
tion of the veil of Maya, Oneness as genius of the 
race, ay, of nature. The essence of nature is now 
to be expressed symbolically ; a new world of 
symbols is required ; for once the entire symbolism 
of the body, not only the symbolism of the lips, 
face, and speech, but the whole pantomime of 
dancing which sets all the members into rhyth 
mical motion. Thereupon the other symbolic 
powers, those of music, in rhythmics, dynamics, 
and harmony, suddenly become impetuous. To 
comprehend this collective discharge of all the 
symbolic powers, a man must have already attained 
that height of self-abnegation, which wills to 
express itself symbolically through these powers: 
the Dithyrambic votary of Dionysus is therefore 
understood only by those like himself! With 
what astonishment must the Apollonian Greek 
have beheld him ! With an astonishment, which 
was all the greater the more it was mingled with 
the shuddering suspicion that all this was in 


reality not so very foreign to him, yea, that, like 
unto a veil, his Apollonian consciousness only hid 
this Dionysian world from his view. 

In order to comprehend this, we must take 
down the artistic structure of the Apollonian 
culture , as it were, stone by stone, till we behold 
the foundations on which it rests. Here we 
observe first of all the glorious Olympian figures of 
the gods, standing on the gables of this structure, 
whose deeds, represented in far-shining reliefs, 
adorn its friezes. Though Apollo stands among 
them as an individual deity, side by side with 
others, and without claim to priority of rank, we 
must not suffer this fact to mislead us. The 
same impulse which embodied itself in Apollo has, 
in general, given birth to this whole Olympian 
world, and in this sense we may regard Apollo as 
the father thereof. What was the enormous need 
from which proceeded such an illustrious group of 
Olympian beings? 

Whosoever, with another religion in his heart, 
approaches these Olympians and seeks among 
them for moral elevation, even for sanctity, for 
incorporeal spiritualisation, for sympathetic looks 
of love, will soon be obliged to turn his back 
on them, discouraged and disappointed. Here 
nothing suggests asceticism, spirituality, or duty : 
here only an exuberant, even triumphant life 
speaks to us 4 in which everything existing is 
deified, whether good or bad. And so the 


spectator will perhaps stand quite bewildered 
before this fantastic exuberance of life, and ask 
himself what magic potion these madly merry 
men could have used for enjoying life, so that, 
wherever they turned their eyes, Helena, the ideal 
image of their own existence " floating in sweet 
sensuality," smiled upon them. But to this 
spectator, already turning backwards, we must 
call out : " depart not hence, but hear rather what 
Greek folk-wisdom says of this same life, which 
with such inexplicable cheerfulness spreads out 
before thee. There is an ancient story that king 
Midas hunted in the forest a long time for the 
wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus, without 
capturing him. When at last he fell into his 
hands, the king asked what was best of all and 
most desirable for man. Fixed and immovable, 
the demon remained silent ; till at last, forced by 
the king, he broke out with shrill laughter into 
these words: "Oh, wretched race of a day, 
children of chance and misery, why do ye compel 
me to say to you what it were most expedient for 
you not to hear? What is best of all is for ever 
beyond your reach : not to be born, not to be, to 
be nothing. The second best for you, however, 
is soon to die." 

How is the Olympian world of deities related 
to this folk-wisdom ? Even as the rapturous 
vision of the tortured martyr to his sufferings. 

Now the Olympian magic mountain opens, as 
it were, to our view and shows to us its roots. 
The Greek knew and felt the terrors and horrors 
of existence : to be able to live at all, he had to 


interpose the shining dream-birth of the Olympian 
world between himself and them. The excessive 
distrust of the titanic powers of nature, the Moira 
throning inexorably over all knowledge, the 
vulture of the great philanthropist Prometheus, 
the terrible fate of the wise CEdipus, the family 
curse of the Atridae which drove Orestes to 
matricide ; in short, that entire philosophy of the 
sylvan god, with its mythical exemplars, which 
wrought the ruin of the melancholy Etruscans 
was again and again surmounted anew by the 
Greeks through the artistic middle world of the 
Olympians, or at least veiled and withdrawn from 
sight. To be able to live, the Greeks had, from 
direst necessity, to create these gods : which 
process we may perhaps picture to ourselves in 
this manner : that out of the original Titan 
thearchy of terror the Olympian thearchy of joy 
was evolved, by slow transitions, through the 
Apollonian impulse to beauty, even as roses break 
forth from thorny bushes. How else could this 
so sensitive people, so vehement in its desires, so 
singularly qualified for suffering, have endured 
existence, if it had not been exhibited to them 
in their gods, surrounded with a higher glory ? 
The same impulse which calls art into being, as 
the complement and consummation of existence, 
seducing to a continuation of life, caused also the 
Olympian world to arise, in which the Hellenic 
" will " held up before itself a transfiguring mirror. 
Thus do the gods justify the life of man, in that 
they themselves live it the only satisfactory 
Theodicy ! Existence under the bright sunshine 


of such gods is regarded as that which is desirable 
in itself, and the real grief of the Homeric men 
has reference to parting from it, especially to 
early parting : so that we might now say of them, 
with a reversion of the Silenian wisdom, that " to 
die early is worst of all for them, the second 
worst is some day to die at all." If once the 
lamentation is heard, it will ring out again, of the 
short-lived Achilles, of the leaf-like change and 
vicissitude of the human race, of the decay of the 
heroic age. It is not unworthy of the greatest 
hero to long for a continuation of life, ay, even as 
a day-labourer. So vehemently does the " will," 
at the Apollonian stage of development, long for 
this existence, so completely at one does the 
Homeric man feel himself with it, that the very 
lamentation becomes its song of praise. 

Here we must observe that this harmony which 
is so eagerly contemplated by modern man, in 
fact, this oneness of man with nature, to express 
which Schiller introduced the technical term 
" naive," is by no means such a simple, naturally 
resulting and, as it were, inevitable condition, 
which must be found at the gate of every culture 
leading to a paradise of man : this could be 
believed only by an age which sought to picture 
to itself Rousseau s mile also as an artist, and 
imagined it had found in Homer such an artist 
fimile, reared at Nature s bosom. Wherever we 
meet with the "naive" in art, it behoves us to 
recognise the highest effect of the Apollonian 
culture, which in the first place has always to over 
throw some Titanic empire and slay monsters, and 


which, through powerful dazzling representations 
and pleasurable illusions, must have trium )hed 
over a terrible depth of world-contemplation ind 
a most keen susceptibility to suffering. But how 
seldom is the naive that complete absorption in 
the beauty of appearance attained ! And hen:e 
how inexpressibly sublime is Plomer, who, as un.t 
being, bears the same relation to this Apollonian 
folk-culture as the unit dream-artist does to the 
dream-faculty of the people and of Nature in 
general. The Homeric " naivete* " can be com 
prehended only as the complete triumph of the 
Apollonian illusion : it is the same kind of 
illusion as Nature so frequently employs to 
compass her ends. The true goal is veiled by a 
phantasm : we stretch out our hands for the latter, 
while Nature attains the former through our 
illusion. In the Greeks the "will" desired to 
contemplate itself in the transfiguration of the 
genius and the world of art ; in order to glorify 
themselves, its creatures had to feel themselves 
worthy of glory ; they had to behold themselves 
again in a higher sphere, without this consummate 
world of contemplation acting as an imperative or 
reproach. Such is the sphere of beauty, in which, 
as in a mirror, they saw their images, the 
Olympians. With this mirroring of beauty the 
Hellenic will combated its talent correlative to 
the artistic for suffering and for the wisdom of 
suffering: and, as a monument of its victory, 
Homer, the naive artist, stands before us. 



Concerning this naive artist the analogy of 
dreams will enlighten us to some extent. When 
w. realise to ourselves the dreamer, as, in the 
midst of the illusion of the dream-world and with 
out disturbing it, he calls out to himself: " it is a 
dream, I will dream on " ; when we must thence 
infer a deep inner joy in dream-contemplation ; 
when, on the other hand, to be at all able to dream 
with this inner joy in contemplation, we must have 
completely forgotten the day and its terrible ob- 
trusiveness, we may, under the direction of the 
dream-reading Apollo, interpret all these phe 
nomena to ourselves somewhat as follows. Though 
it is certain that of the two halves of life, the 
waking and the dreaming, the former appeals to 
us as by far the more preferred, important, ex 
cellent and worthy of being lived, indeed, as that 
which alone is lived : yet, with reference to that 
mysterious ground of our being of which we are 
the phenomenon, I should, paradoxical as it may 
seem, be inclined to maintain the very opposite 
estimate of the value of dream life. For the more 
clearly I perceive in nature those all-powerful 
art impulses, and in them a fervent longing for 
appearance, for redemption through appearance, 
the more I feel myself driven to the metaphysical 
assumption that the Verily-Existent and Prim 
ordial Unity, as the Eternally Suffering and Self- 
Contradictory, requires the rapturous vision, the 
joyful appearance, for its continuous salvation : 
which appearance we, who are completely wrapt 


in it and composed of it, must regard as the Verily 
Non-existent, i.e., as a perpetual unfolding in 
time, space and causality, in other words, as em 
piric reality. If we therefore waive the consideration 
of our own "reality" for the present, if we con 
ceive our empiric existence, and that of the world 
generally, as a representation of the Primordial 
Unity generated every moment, we shall then have 
to regard the dream as an appearance of appearance, 
hence as a still higher gratification of the prim 
ordial desire for appearance. It is for this same 
reason that the innermost heart of Nature experi 
ences that indescribable joy in the naive artist and 
in the naive work of art, which is likewise only 
" an appearance of appearance." In a symbolic 
painting, Raphael, himself one of these immortal 
" naive " ones, has represented to us this depoten- 
tiating of appearance to appearance, the primordial 
process of the naive artist and at the same time of 
Apollonian culture. In his Transfiguration, the 
lower half, with the possessed boy, the despairing 
bearers, the helpless, terrified disciples, shows to 
us the reflection of eternal primordial pain, the sole 
basis of the world : the " appearance " here is the 
counter-appearance of eternal Contradiction, the 
father of things. Out of this appearance then 
arises, like an ambrosial vapour, a visionlike new 
world of appearances, of which those wrapt in the 
first appearance see nothing a radiant floating in 
purest bliss and painless Contemplation beaming 
from wide-open eyes. Here there is presented to 
our view, in the highest symbolism of art, that 
Apollonian world of beauty and its substratum, 


the terrible wisdom of Silenus, and we comprehend, 
by intuition, their necessary interdependence. 
Apollo, however, again appears to us as the 
apotheosis of the principium individuationis, in 
which alone the perpetually attained end of the 
Primordial Unity, its redemption through appear 
ance, is consummated : he shows us, with sublime 
attitudes, how the entire world of torment is 
necessary, that thereby .the individual may be im 
pelled to realise the redeeming vision, and then, 
sunk in contemplation thereof, quietly sit in his 
fluctuating barque, in the midst of the sea. 

This apotheosis of individuation, if it be at all 
conceived as imperative and laying down precepts, 
knows but one law the individual, i.e., the observ 
ance of the boundaries of the individual, measure 
in the Hellenic sense. Apollo, as ethical deity, 
demands due proportion of his disciples, and, that 
this may be observed, he demands self-knowledge. 
And thus, parallel to the aesthetic necessity for 
beauty, there run the demands " know thyself" 
and " not too much," while presumption and 
undueness are regarded as the truly hostile demons 
of the non-Apollonian sphere, hence as char 
acteristics of the pre-Apollonian age, that of the 
Titans, and of the extra- Apollonian world, that of 
the barbarians. Because of his Titan-like love 
for man, Prometheus had to be torn to pieces by 
vultures ; because of his excessive wisdom, which 
solved the riddle of the Sphinx, CEdipus had to 
plunge into a bewildering vortex of monstrous 
crimes : thus did the Delphic god interpret the 
Grecian past. 


So also the effects wrought by the Dionysian 
appeared " titanic " and " barbaric " to the Apol 
lonian Greek : while at the same time he could not 
conceal from himself that he too was inwardly 
related to these overthrown Titans and heroes. 
Indeed, he had to recognise still more than this: 
his entire existence, with all its beauty and moder 
ation, rested on a hidden substratum of suffering 
and of knowledge, which was again disclosed to 
him by the Dionysian. And lo ! Apollo could 
not live without Dionysus ! The " titanic " and 
the " barbaric " were in the end not less necessary 
than the Apollonian. And now let us imagine to 
ourselves how the ecstatic tone of the Dionysian 
festival sounded in ever more luring and bewitching 
strains into this artificially confined world built on 
appearance and moderation, how in these strains 
all the undueness of nature, in joy, sorrow, and 
knowledge, even to the transpiercing shriek, became 
audible : let us ask ourselves what meaning could 
be attached to the psalmodising artist of Apollo, 
with the phantom harp-sound, as compared with 
this demonic folk-song ! The muses of the arts 
of " appearance " paled before an art which, in its 
intoxication, spoke the truth, the wisdom of Silenus 
cried " woe ! woe ! " against the cheerful Olympians. 
The individual, with all his boundaries and due 
proportions, went under in the self-oblivion of the 
Dionysian states and forgot the Apollonian pre 
cepts. The Undueness revealed itself as truth, 
contradiction, the bljssj^n_of_r)ain, declared itself 
but of the heart of nature. And thus, wherever 
the Dionysian prevailed, the Apollonian was 


routed and annihilated. But it is quite as certain 
that, where the first assault was successfully with 
stood, the authority and majesty of the Delphic 
god exhibited itself as more rigid and menacing 
than ever. For I can only explain to myself the 
Doric state and Doric art as a permanent war-camp 
of the Apollonian : only by incessant opposition 
to the titanic-barbaric nature of the Dionysian 
was it possible for an art so defiantly-prim, so 
encompassed with bulwarks, a training so warlike 
and rigorous, a constitution so cruel and relentless, 
to last for any length of time. 

Up to this point we have enlarged upon the 
observation made at the beginning of this essay : 
how the Dionysian and the Apollonian, in ever 
new births succeeding and mutually augmenting 
one another, controlled the Hellenic genius : how 
from out the age of " bronze," with its Titan 
struggles and rigorous folk-philosophy, the Homeric 
world develops under the fostering sway of the 
Apollonian impulse to beauty, how this " naive " 
splendour is again overwhelmed by the inbursting 
flood of the Dionysian, and how against this new 
power the Apollonian rises to the austere majesty 
of Doric art and the Doric view of things. If, 
then, in this way, in the strife of these two hostile 
principles, the older Hellenic history falls into four 
great periods of art, we are now driven to inquire 
after the ulterior purpose of these unfoldings and 
processes, unless perchance we should regard the 
last-attained period, the period of Doric art, as the 
end and aim of these artistic impulses : and here 
the sublime and highly celebrated art-work of 


Attic tragedy and dramatic dithyramb presents 
itself to our view as the common goal of both 
these impulses, whose mysterious union, after 
many and long precursory struggles, found its 
glorious consummation in such a child, which is 
at once Antigone and Cassandra, 


We now approach the real purpose of our in 
vestigation, which aims at acquiring a knowledge 
of the Dionyso-Apollonian genius and his art 
work, or at least an anticipatory understanding of 
the mystery of the aforesaid union. Here we 
shall ask first of all where that new germ which 
subsequently developed into tragedy and dramatic 
dithyramb first makes itself perceptible in the 
Hellenic world. The ancients themselves supply 
the answer in symbolic form, when they place 
Homer and Archilochus as the forefathers and 
torch-bearers of Greek poetry side by side on 
gems, sculptures, etc., in the sure conviction that 
only these two thoroughly original compeers, from 
whom a stream of fire flows over the whole of 
Greek posterity, should be taken into considera 
tion. Homer, the aged dreamer sunk in himself, 
the type of the Apollonian naive artist, beholds 
now with astonishment the impassioned genius of 
the warlike votary of the muses, Archilochus, 
violently tossed to and fro on the billows of exist 
ence : and modern aesthetics could only add by 
way of interpretation, that here the " objective " 
artist is confronted by the first " subjective " artist. 


But this interpretation is of little service to us, 
because we know the subjective artist only as the 
poor artist, and in every type and elevation of 
art we demand specially and first of all the con 
quest of the Subjective, the redemption from the 
" ego " and the cessation of every individual will 
and desire ; indeed, we find it impossible to believe 
in any truly artistic production, however insignifi 
cant, without objectivity, without pure, interestless 
contemplation. Hence our aesthetics must first 
solve the problem as to how the " lyrist " is 
possible as an artist : he who according to the 
experience of all ages continually says " 1 " and 
sings off to us the entire chromatic scale of his 
passions and desires. This very Archilochus 
appals us, alongside of Homer, by his cries of hatred 
and scorn, by the drunken outbursts of his desire. 
Is not just he then, who has been called the first 
subjective artist, the non-artist proper? But 
whence then the reverence which was shown to 
him the poet in very remarkable utterances by 
the Delphic oracle itself, the focus of "objective" 

Schiller has enlightened us concerning his poetic 
procedure by a psychological observation, inexplic 
able to himself, yet not apparently open to any 
objection. He acknowledges that as the prepara 
tory state to the act of poetising he had not 
perhaps before him or within him a series of 
pictures with co-ordinate causality of thoughts, but 
rather a musical mood (" The perception with me 
is at first without a clear and definite object ; this 
torms itself later. A certain musical mood of 


mind precedes, and only after this does the poetical 
idea follow with me."). Add to this the most im 
portant phenomenon of all ancient lyric poetry, 
the union, regarded everywhere as natural, of the 
lyrist with the musician, their very identity, indeed, 
compared with which our modern lyric poetry 
is like the statue of a god without a head, and 
we may now, on the basis of our metaphysics of 
aesthetics set forth above, interpret the lyrist to 
ourselves as follows. As Dionysian artist he is 
in the first place become altogether one with the 
Primordial Unity, its pain and contradiction, and 
he produces the copy of this Primordial Unity as 
music, granting that music has been correctly 
termed a repetition and a recast of the world ; 
but now, under the Apollonian dream-inspiration, 
this music again becomes visible to him as in a 
symbolic dream-picture. The formless and in 
tangible reflection of the primordial pain in music, 
with its redemption in appearance, then generates 
a second mirroring as a concrete symbol or 
example. The artist has already surrendered his 
subjectivity in the Dionysian process : the picture 
which now shows to him his oneness with the 
heart of the world, is a dream-scene, which em 
bodies the primordial contradiction and primordial 
pain, together with the primordial joy, of appear 
ance. The " I " of the lyrist sounds therefore 
from the abyss of being : its " subjectivity," in the 
sense of the modern aesthetes, is a fiction. When 
Archilochus, the first lyrist of the Greeks, makes 
known both his mad love and his contempt to the 
daughters of Lycambes, it is not his passion which 


dances before us in orgiastic frenzy : we see 
Dionysus and the Maenads, we see the drunken 
reveller Archilochus sunk down to sleep as 
Euripides depicts it in the Bacchae, the sleep on 
the high Alpine pasture, in the noonday sun : 
and now Apollo approaches and touches him with 
the laurel. The Dionyso-musical enchantment of 
the sleeper now emits, as it were, picture sparks, 
lyrical poems, which in their highest development 
are called tragedies and dramatic dithyrambs. 

The plastic artist, as also the epic poet, who is 
related to him, is sunk in the pure contemplation 
of pictures. The Dionysian musician is, without 
any picture, himself just primordial pain and the 
primordial re-echoing thereof. The lyric genius 
is conscious of a world of pictures and symbols 
growing out of the state of mystical self-abnega 
tion and oneness, which has a colouring causality 
and velocity quite different from that of the world 
of the plastic artist and epic poet. While the 
latter lives in these pictures, and only in them, 
with joyful satisfaction, and never grows tired 
of contemplating them with love, even in their 
minutest characters, while even the picture of the 
angry Achilles is to him but a picture, the angry 
expression of which he enjoys with the dream- 
joy in appearance so that, by this mirror of 
appearance, he is guarded against being unified 
and blending with his figures ; the pictures of 
the lyrist on the other hand are nothing but his 
very self and, as it were, only different projections 
of himself, on account of which he as the moving 
centre of this world is entitled to say " I " : only 


of course this self is not the same as that of the 
waking, empirically real man, but the only verily 
existent and eternal self resting at the basis of 
things, by means of the images whereof the lyric 
genius sees through even to this basis of things. 
Now let us suppose that he beholds himself also 
among these images as non-genius, i.e., his subject, 
the whole throng of subjective passions and im 
pulses of the will directed to a definite object 
which appears real to him ; if now it seems as if 
the lyric genius and the allied non-genius were 
one, and as if the former spoke that little word 
" I " of his own accord, this appearance will no 
longer be able to lead us astray, as it certainly 
led those astray who designated the lyrist as the 
subjective poet. In truth, Archilochus, the pas 
sionately inflamed, loving and hating man, is but 
a vision of the genius, who by this time is no 
longer Archilochus, but a genius of the world, who 
expresses his primordial pain symbolically in the 
figure of the man Archilochus : while the subject 
ively willing and desiring man, Archilochus, can 
never at any time be a poet. It is by no means 
necessary, however, that the lyrist should see 
nothing but the phenomenon of the man Archi 
lochus before him as a reflection of eternal being ; 
and tragedy shows how far the visionary world of 
the lyrist may depart from this phenomenon, to 
which, of course, it is most intimately related. 

cjwejihau*r, who did not shut his eyes to the 
difficulty presented by the lyrist in the philo 
sophical contemplation of art, thought he had 
found a way out of it, on which, however, I can- 


not accompany him ; while he alone, in his pro 
found metaphysics of music, held in his hands the 
means whereby this difficulty could be definitely 
removed : as I believe I have removed it here in 
his spirit and to his honour. In contrast to our 
view, he describes the peculiar nature of song as 
follows * ( Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, I. 
295) : " It is the subject of the will, i.e., his own 
volition, which fills the consciousness of the singer ; 
often as an unbound and satisfied desire (joy), 
but still more often as a restricted desire (grief), 
always as an emotion, a passion, or an agitated 
frame of mind. Besides this, however, and along 
with it, by the sight of surrounding nature, the 
singer becomes conscious of himself as the subject 
of pure will-less knowing, the unbroken, blissful 
peace of which now appears, in contrast to the 
stress of desire, which is always restricted and 
always needy. The feeling of this contrast, this 
alternation, is really what the song as a whole 
expresses and what principally constitutes the 
lyrical state of mind. In it pure knowing comes 
to us as it were to deliver us from desire and 
the stress thereof: we follow, but only for an 
instant ; for desire, the remembrance of our 
personal ends, tears us anew from peaceful con 
templation ; yet ever again the next beautiful 
surrounding in which the pure will-less knowledge 
presents itself to us, allures us away from desire. 
Therefore, in song and in the lyrical mood, desire 

* World as Will and Idea, I. 323, 4th ed. of Haldane 
and Kemp s translation. Quoted with a few changes. 


(the personal interest of the ends) and the pure 
perception of the surrounding which presents itself, 
are wonderfully mingled with each other; con 
nections between them are sought for and ima 
gined ; the subjective disposition, the affection of 
the will, imparts its own hue to the contemplated 
surrounding, and conversely, the surroundings com 
municate the reflex of their colour to the will. 
The true song is the expression of the whole of 
this mingled and divided state of mind." 

Who could fail to see in this description that 
lyric poetry is here characterised as an imperfectly 
attained art, which seldom and only as it were in 
leaps arrives at its goal, indeed, as a semi-art, the 
essence of which is said to consist in this, that desire 
and pure contemplation, i.e., the unasthetic and the 
aesthetic condition, are wonderfully mingled with 
each other ? We maintain rather, that this entire 
antithesis, according to which, as according to 
some standard of value, Schopenhauer, too, still 
classifies the arts, the antithesis between the 
subjective and the objective, is quite out of place 
in aesthetics, inasmuch as the subject, i.e. t the 
desiring individual who furthers his own egoistic 
ends, can be conceived only as the adversary, not 
as the origin of art. In so far as the subject is 
the artist, however, he has already been released 
from his individual will, and has become as it 
were the medium, through which the one verily 
existent Subject celebrates his redemption in 
appearance. For this one thing must above all 
be clear to us, to our humiliation and exaltation, 
that the entire comedy of art is not at all per- 


formed, say, for our betterment and culture, and 
that we are just as little the true authors of this 
art-world : rather we may assume with regard to 
ourselves, that its true author uses us as pictures 
and artistic projections, and that we have our 
highest dignity in our significance as works of art 
for only as an (esthetic phenomenon is existence 
and the world eternally justified: while of course 
our consciousness of this our specific significance 
hardly differs from the kind of consciousness which 
the soldiers painted on canvas have of the battle 
represented thereon. Hence all our knowledge 
of art is at bottom quite illusory, because, as 
knowing persons we are not one and identical 
with the Being who, as the sole author and spec 
tator of this comedy of art, prepares a perpetual 
entertainment for himself. Only in so far as the 
genius in the act of artistic production coalesces 
with this primordial artist of the world, does he 
get a glimpse of the eternal essence of art, for in 
this state he is, in a marvellous manner, like the 
weird picture of the fairy-tale which can at will 
turn its eyes and behold itself; he is now at once 
subject and object , at once poet, actor, and spec 


With reference to Archilochus, it has been 
established by critical research that he introduced 
the folk-song into literature, and, on account 
thereof, deserved, according to the general estimate 
of the Greeks, his unique position alongside of 
Homer. But what is this popular folk-song in 


contrast to the wholly Apollonian epos? What 
else but the perpetuum vestigium of a union of the 
Apollonian and the Dionysian ? Its enormous 
diffusion among all peoples, still further enhanced 
by ever new births, testifies to the power of this 
artistic double impulse of nature : which leaves its 
vestiges in the popular song in like manner as the 
orgiastic movements of a people perpetuate them 
selves in its music. Indeed, one might also 
furnish historical proofs, that every period which 
is highly productive in popular songs has been 
most violently stirred by Dionysian currents, which 
we must always regard as the substratum and 
prerequisite of the popular song. 

First of all, however, we regard the popular 
song as the musical mirror of the world, as the 
original melody, which now seeks for itself a 
parallel dream-phenomenon and expresses it in 
poetry. Melody is therefore primary and universal, 
and as such may admit of several objectivations, 
in several texts. Likewise, in the naive estima 
tion of the people, it is regarded as by far the 
more important and necessary. Melody generates 
the poem out of itself by an ever-recurring pro 
cess. The strophic form of the popular song points 
to the same phenomenon, which I always beheld 
with astonishment, till at last I found this explana 
tion. Any one who in accordance with this theory 
examines a collection of popular songs, such as 
14 Des Knaben Wunderhorn," will find innumer 
able instances of the perpetually productive 
melody scattering picture sparks all around : 
which in their variegation, their abrupt change, 


their mad precipitance, manifest a power quite 
unknown to the epic appearance and its steady 
flow. From the point of view of the epos, this un 
equal and irregular pictorial world of lyric poetry 
must be simply condemned : and the solemn 
epic rhapsodists of the Apollonian festivals in 
the age of Terpander have certainly done so. 

Accordingly, we observe that in the poetising 
of the popular song, language is strained to its 
utmost to imitate music \ and hence a new world 
of poetry begins with Archilochus, which is fun 
damentally opposed to the Homeric. And in 
saying this we have pointed out the only possible 
relation between poetry and music, between word 
and tone : the word, the picture, the concept here 
seeks an expression analogous to music and now 
experiences in itself the power of music. In 
this sense we may discriminate between two main 
currents in the history of the language of the 
Greek people, according as their language imitated 
either the world of phenomena and of pictures, or 
the world of music. One has only to reflect 
seriously on the linguistic difference with regard 
to colour, syntactical structure, and vocabulary in 
Homer and Pindar, in order to comprehend the 
significance of this contrast ; indeed, it becomes 
palpably clear to us that in the period between 
Homer and Pindar the orgiastic flute tones of 
Olympus must have sounded forth, which, in an 
age as late as Aristotle s, when music was infinitely 
more developed, transported people to drunken en 
thusiasm, and which, when their influence was first 
felt, undoubtedly incited all the poetic means of 


expression of contemporaneous man to imitation. 
I here call attention to a familiar phenomenon of 
our own times, against which our aesthetics raises 
many objections. We again and again have 
occasion to observe how a symphony of Beethoven 
compels the individual hearers to use figurative 
speech, though the appearance presented by a 
collocation of the different pictorial world generated 
by a piece of music may be never so fantastically 
diversified and even contradictory. To practise 
its small wit on such compositions, and to overlook 
a phenomenon which is certainly worth explaining, 
is quite in keeping with this aesthetics. Indeed, 
even if the tone-poet has spoken in pictures con 
cerning a composition, when for instance he 
designates a certain symphony as the " pastoral " 
symphony, or a passage therein as " the scene by 
the brook," or another as the " merry gathering 
of rustics," these are likewise only symbolical 
representations born out of music and not perhaps 
the imitated objects of music representations 
which can give us no information whatever con 
cerning the Dionysian content of music, and which 
in fact have no distinctive value of their own 
alongside of other pictorical expressions. This 
process of a discharge of music in pictures we have 
now to transfer to some youthful, linguistically 
productive people, to get a notion as to how 
the strophic popular song originates, and how the 
entire faculty of speech is stimulated by this new 
principle of imitation of music. 

If, therefore, we may regard lyric poetry as the 
effulguration of music in pictures and concepts, 


we can now ask : " how does music appear in 
the mirror of symbolism and conception ? " // 
appears as will, taking the word in the Schopen- 
hauerian sense, i.e., as the antithesis of the aesthetic, 
purely contemplative, and passive frame of mind. 
Here, however, we must discriminate as sharply 
as possible between the concept of essentiality 
and the concept of phenominality ; for music, 
according to its essence, cannot be will, because 
as such it would have to be wholly banished 
from the domain of art for the will is the 
unaesthetic-in-itself ; yet it appears as will. For 
in order to express the phenomenon of music in 
pictures, the lyrist requires all the stirrings of 
passion, from the whispering of infant desire to 
the roaring of madness. Under the impulse 
to speak of music in Apollonian symbols, he con 
ceives of all nature, and himself therein, only as 
the eternally willing, desiring, longing existence. 
But in so far as he interprets music by means 
of pictures, he himself rests in the quiet calm 
of Apollonian contemplation, however much all 
around him which he beholds through the medium 
of music is in a state of confused and violent 
motion. Indeed, when he beholds himself through 
this same medium, his own image appears to him 
in a state of unsatisfied feeling : his own willing, 
longing, moaning and rejoicing are to him symbols 
by which he interprets music. Such is the phenom 
enon of the lyrist : as Apollonian genius he in 
terprets music through the image of the will, while 
he himself, completely released from the avidity 
of the will, is the pure, undimmed eye of day. 


Our whole disquisition insists on this, that 
lyric poetry is dependent on the spirit of music 
just as music itself in its absolute sovereignty 
does not require the picture and the concept, but 
only endures them as accompaniments. The 
poems of the lyrist can express nothing which has 
not already been contained in the vast universality 
and absoluteness of the music which compelled 
him to use figurative speech. By no means is it 
possible for language adequately to render the 
cosmic symbolism of music, for the very reason 
that music stands in symbolic relation to the 
primordial contradiction and primordial pain in 
the heart of the Primordial Unity, and _tkcrefore 
symbolises a sphere which is above all appearance 
and before all phenomena. Rather should we 
say that all phenomena, compared with it, are 
but symbols : hence language, as the organ and 
symbol of phenomena, cannot at all disclose the 
innermost essence of music ; language can only 
be in superficial contact with music when it 
attempts to imitate music ; while the profoundest 
significance of the latter cannot be brought one 
step nearer to us by all the eloquence of lyric 


We shall now have to avail ourselves of all the 
principles of art hitherto considered, in order to 
find our way through the labyrinth, as we must 
designate the origin of Greek tragedy. I shall 
not be charged with absurdity in saying that the 


problem of this origin has as yet not even been 
seriously stated, not to say solved, however often 
the fluttering tatters of ancient tradition have 
been sewed together in sundry combinations and 
torn asunder again. This tradition tells us in 
the most unequivocal terms, that tragedy sprang 
from the tragic chorus , and was originally only 
chorus and nothing but chorus : and hence we 
feel it our duty to look into the heart of this 
tragic chorus as being the real proto-drama, 
without in the least contenting ourselves with 
current art-phraseology according to which the 
chorus is the ideal spectator, or represents the 
people in contrast to the regal side of the scene. 
The latter explanatory notion, which sounds 
sublime to many a politician that the immutable 
moral law was embodied by the democratic 
Athenians in the popular chorus, which always 
carries its point over the passionate excesses and 
extravagances of kings may be ever so forcibly 
suggested by an observation of Aristotle : still 
it has no bearing on the original formation of 
tragedy, inasmuch as the entire antithesis of king 
and people, and, in general, the whole politico- 
social sphere, is excluded from the purely religious 
beginnings of tragedy ; but, considering the well- 
known classical form of the chorus in ^Eschylus 
and Sophocles, we should even deem it blasphemy 
to speak here of the anticipation of a " constitu 
tional representation of the people," from which 
blasphemy others have not shrunk, however. The 
ancient governments knew of no constitutional 
representation of the people in praxi, and it is to 


be hoped that they did not even so much as 
" anticipate " it in tragedy. 

Much more celebrated than this political ex 
planation of the chorus is the notion of A. W. 
Schickel, who advises us to regard the chorus, in 
a manner, as the essence and extract of the crowd 
of spectators, as the " ideal spectator." This view 
when compared with the historical tradition that 
tragedy was originally only chorus, reveals itself 
in its true character, as a crude, unscientific, yet 
brilliant assertion, which, however, has acquired its 
brilliancy only through its concentrated form of 
expression, through the truly Germanic bias in 
favour of whatever is called " ideal," and through 
our momentary astonishment. For we are indeed 
astonished the moment we compare our well-known 
theatrical public with this chorus, and ask our 
selves if it could ever be possible to idealise some 
thing analogous to the Greek chorus out of such a 
public. We tacitly deny this, and now wonder as 
much at the boldness of Schlegel s assertion as at 
the totally different nature of the Greek public. 
For hitherto we always believed that the true 
spectator, be he who he may, had always to re 
main conscious of having before him a work of 
art, and not an empiric reality : whereas the tragic 
chorus of the Greeks is compelled to recognise 
real beings in the figures of the stage. The chorus 
of the Ocean ides really believes that it sees before 
it the Titan Prometheus, and considers itself as 
real as the god of the scene. And are we to own 
that he is the highest and purest type of spectator, 
who, like the Ocean ides, regards Prometheus as 


real and present in body ? And is it characteristic 
of the ideal spectator that he should run on the 
stage and free the god from his torments ? We 
had believed in an aesthetic public, and considered 
the individual spectator the better qualified the 
more he was capable of viewing a work of art as 
art, that is, aesthetically ; but now the Schlegelian 
expression has intimated to us, that the perfect 
ideal spectator does not at all suffer the world of 
the scenes to act aesthetically on him, but corporeo- 
empirically. Oh, these Greeks ! we have sighed ; 
they will upset our aesthetics ! But once accus 
tomed to it, we have reiterated the saying of 
Schlegel, as often as the subject of the chorus has 
been broached. 

But the tradition which is so explicit here speaks 
against Schlegel : the chorus as such, without the 
stage, the primitive form of tragedy, and the 
chorus of ideal spectators do not harmonise. What 
kind of art would that be which was extracted from 
the concept of the spectator, and whereof we are 
to regard the " spectator as such " as the true 
form ? The spectator without the play is some 
thing absurd. We fear that the birth of tragedy 
can be explained neither by the high esteem for 
the moral intelligence of the multitude nor by the 
concept of the spectator without the play ; and we 
regard the problem as too deep to be even so 
much as touched by such superficial modes of 

An infinitely more valuable insight into the 
signification of the chorus had already been dis 
played by Schiller in the celebrated Preface to his 


Bride of Messina, where he regarded the chorus as 
a living wall which tragedy draws round herself to 
guard her from contact with the world of reality, 
and to preserve her ideal domain and poetical 

It is with this, his chief weapon, that Schiller 
combats the ordinary conception of the natural, 
the illusion ordinarily required in dramatic poetry. 
He contends that while indeed the day on the stage 
is merely artificial, the architecture only sym 
bolical, and the metrical dialogue purely ideal in 
character, nevertheless an erroneous view still 
prevails in the main : that it is not enough to 
tolerate merely as a poetical license that which is 
in reality the essence of all poetry. The intro 
duction of the chorus is, he says, the decisive step 
by which war is declared openly and honestly 
against all naturalism in art. It is, methinks, for 
disparaging this mode of contemplation that our 
would-be superior age has coined the disdainful 
catchword " pseudo-idealism." I fear, however, 
that we on the other hand with our present worship 
of the natural and the real have landed at the 
nadir of all idealism, namely in the region of 
cabinets of wax-figures. An art indeed exists 
also here, as in certain novels much in vogue at 
present : but let no one pester us with the claim 
that by this art the Schiller-Goethian " Pseudo- 
idealism " has been vanquished. 

It is indeed an " ideal " domain, as Schiller 
rightly perceived, upon which the Greek satyric 
chorus, the chorus of primitive tragedy, was wont 
to walk, a domain raised far above the actual path 


of mortals. The Greek framed for this chorus 
the suspended scaffolding of a fictitious natural 
state and placed thereon fictitious natural beings. 
It is on this foundation that tragedy grew up, and 
so it could of course dispense from the very first 
with a painful portrayal of reality. Yet it is not an 
arbitrary world placed by fancy betwixt heaven 
and earth ; rather is it a world possessing the same 
reality and trustworthiness that Olympus with its 
dwellers possessed for the believing Hellene. 
The satyr, as being the Dionysian chorist, lives 
in a religiously acknowledged reality under the 
sanction of the myth and cult. That tragedy 
begins with him, that the Dionysian wisdom of 
tragedy speaks through him, is just as surprising a 
phenomenon to us as, in general, the derivation of 
tragedy from the chorus. Perhaps we shall get a 
starting-point for our inquiry, if I put forward the 
proposition that the satyr, the fictitious natural 
being, is to the man of culture what Dionysian 
music is to civilisation. Concerning this latter, 
Richard Wagner says that it is neutralised by 
music even as lamplight by daylight. In like 
manner, I believe, the Greek man of culture felt 
himself neutralised in the presence of the satyric 
chorus : and this is the most immediate effect of 
the Dionysian tragedy, that the state and society, 
and, in general, the gaps between man and man 
give way to an overwhelming feeling of oneness, 
which leads back to the heart of nature. The 
metaphysical comfort, with which, as I have here 
intimated, every true tragedy dismisses us that, 
in spite of the perpetual change of phenomena, 


life at bottom is indestructibly powerful and 
pleasurable, this comfort appears with corporeal 
lucidity as the satyric chorus, as the chorus of 
natural beings, who live ineradicable as it were 
behind all civilisation, and who, in spite of the 
ceaseless change of generations and the history of 
nations, remain for ever the same. 

With this chorus the deep-minded Hellene, who 
is so singularly qualified for the most delicate and 
severe suffering, consoles himself: he who has 
glanced with piercing eye into the very heart of 
the terrible destructive processes of so-called uni 
versal history, as also into the cruelty of nature, 
and is in danger of longing for a Buddhistic 
negation of the will. Art saves him, and through 
art life saves him for herself. 

For we must know that in the rapture of the 
Dionysian state, with its annihilation of the 
ordinary bounds and limits of existence, there is 
a lethargic element, wherein all personal experi 
ences of the past are submerged. It is by this 
gulf of oblivion that the everyday world and the 
world of Dionysian reality are separated from each 
other. But as soon as this everyday reality rises 
again in consciousness, it is felt as such, and 
nauseates us ; an ascetic will-paralysing mood is 
the fruit of these states. In this sense the Dio 
nysian man may be said to resemble Hamlet : both 
have for once seen into the true nature of things, 
- -they have perceived, but they are loath to act ; 
for their action cannot change the eternal nature 
of things ; they regard it as shameful or ridiculous 
that one should require of them to set aright the 


time which is out of joint. Knowledge kills 
action, action requires the veil of illusion it is 
this lesson which Hamlet teaches, and not the 
cheap wisdom of John-a-Dreams who from too 
much reflection, as it were from a surplus of 
possibilities, does not arrive at action at all. Not 
reflection, no ! true knowledge, insight into appal 
ling truth, preponderates over all motives inciting 
to action, in Hamlet as well as in the Dionysian 
man. No comfort avails any longer ; his longing 
goes beyond a world after death, beyond the gods 
themselves ; existence with its glittering reflection 
in the gods, or in an immortal other world is ab 
jured. In the consciousness of the truth he has 
perceived, man now sees everywhere only the 
awfulness or the absurdity of existence, he now 
understands the symbolism in the fate of Ophelia, 
he now discerns the w r isdom of the sylvan god 
Silenus : and loathing seizes him. 

Here, in this extremest danger of the will, art 
approaches, as a saving and healing enchantress ; 
she alone is able to transform these nauseating 
reflections on the awfulness or absurdity of exist 
ence into representations wherewith it is possible 
to live : these are the representations of the 
sublime as the artistic subjugation of the/awful, 
and the comic as the artistic delivery from the 
nausea of the absurd. The satyric chorus of 
dithyramb is the saving deed of Greek art ; the 
paroxysms described above spent their force in 
the intermediary world of these Dionysian 



The satyr, like the idyllic shepherd of our more 
recent time, is the offspring of a longing after the 
Primitive and the Natural ; but mark with what 
firmness and fearlessness the Greek embraced the 
man of the woods, and again, how coyly and 
mawkishly the modern man dallied with the 
flattering picture of a tender, flute-playing, soft- 
natured shepherd ! Nature, on which as yet no 
knowledge has been at work, which maintains 
unbroken barriers to culture this is what the 
Greek saw in his satyr, which still was not on 
this account supposed to coincide with the ape. 
On the contrary : it was the archetype of man, 
the embodiment of his highest and strongest 
emotions, as the enthusiastic reveller enraptured 
by the proximity of his god, as the fellow-suffering 
companion in whom the suffering of the god re 
peats itself, as the herald of wisdom speaking from 
the very depths of nature, as the emblem of the 
sexual omnipotence of nature, which the Greek 
was wont to contemplate with reverential awe. 
The satyr was something sublime and godlike : he 
could not but appear so, especially to the sad and 
wearied eye of the Dionysian man. He would 
have been offended by our spurious tricked-up 
shepherd, while his eye dwelt with sublime satis 
faction on the naked and unstuntedly magnificent 
characters of nature : here the illusion of culture 
was brushed away from the archetype of man ; 
here the true man, the bearded satyr, revealed 
himself, who shouts joyfully to his god. Hcfore 


him the cultured man shrank to a lying caricature. 
Schiller is right also with reference to these 
beginnings of tragic art : the chorus is a living 
bulwark against the onsets of reality, because it 
the satyric chorus portrays existence more 
truthfully, more realistically, more perfectly than 
the cultured man who ordinarily considers him 
self as the only reality. The sphere of poetry 
does not lie outside the world, like some fantastic 
impossibility of a poet s imagination : it seeks to 
be the very opposite, the unvarnished expression 
of truth, and must for this very reason cast aside 
the false finery of that supposed reality of the 
cultured man. The contrast between this intrinsic 
truth of nature and the falsehood of culture, which 
poses as the only reality, is similar to that existing 
between the eternal kernel of things, the thing in 
itself, and the collective world of phenomena. 
And even as tragedy, with its metaphysical com 
fort, points to the eternal life of this kernel of 
existence, notwithstanding the perpetual dissolu 
tion of phenomena, so the symbolism of the 
satyric chorus already expresses figuratively this 
primordial relation between the thing in itself 
and phenomenon. The idyllic shepherd of the 
modern man is but a copy of the sum of the 
illusions of culture which he calls nature ; the 
Dionysian Greek desires truth and nature in their 
most potent form ; he sees himself metamor 
phosed into the satyr. 

The revelling crowd of the votaries of Dionysus 
rejoices, swayed by sucn moods and perceptions, 
the power of which transforms them before their 


own eyes, so that they imagine they behold them 
selves as reconstituted genii of nature, as satyrs. 
The later constitution of the tragic chorus is the 
artistic imitation of this natural phenomenon, which 
of course required a separation of the Dionysian 
spectators from the enchanted Dionysians. How 
ever, we must never lose sight of the fact that 
the public of the Attic tragedy rediscovered itself 
in the chorus of the orchestra, that there was in 
reality no antithesis of public and chorus : for all 
was but one great sublime chorus of dancing and 
singing satyrs, or of such as allowed themselves 
to be represented by the satyrs. The Schlegelian 
observation must here reveal itself to us in a 
deeper sense. The chorus is the "ideal spectator "* 
in so far as it is the only beholder ft the beholder 
of the visionary world of the scene. A public of 
spectators, as known to us, was unknown to the 
Greeks. In their theatres the terraced structure 
of the spectators space rising in concentric arcs 
enabled every one, in the strictest sense, to overlook 
the entire world of culture around him, and in 
surfeited contemplation to imagine himself a 
chorist. According to this view, then, we may 
call the chorus in its primitive stage in proto- 
tragedy, a self-mirroring of the Dionysian man : 
a phenomenon which may be best exemplified 
by the process of the actor, who, if he be truly 
gifted, sees hovering before his eyes with almost 
tangible perceptibility the character he is to 
represent. The satyric chorus is first of all a 

* Zuschauer. t Schauer. 


vision of the Dionysian throng, just as the world 
of the stage is, in turn, a vision of the satyric 
chorus : the power of this vision is great enough 
to render the eye dull and insensible to the 
impression of " reality," to the presence of the 
cultured men occupying the tiers of seats on every 
side. The form of the Greek theatre reminds one 
of a lonesome mountain-valley : the architecture 
of the scene appears like a luminous cloud-picture 
which the Bacchants swarming on the mountains 
behold from the heights, as the splendid encircle 
ment in the midst of which the image of Dionysus 
is revealed to them. 

Owing to our learned conception of the ele 
mentary artistic processes, this artistic proto- 
phenomenon, which is here introduced to explain 
the tragic chorus, is almost shocking : while 
nothing can be more certain than that the poet 
is a poet only in that he beholds himself sur 
rounded by forms which live and act before him, 
into the innermost being of which his glance 
penetrates. By reason of a strange defeat in our 
capacities, we modern men are apt to represent 
to ourselves the aesthetic proto-phenomenon as 
too complex and abstract. For the true poet 
the metaphor is not a rhetorical figure, but a 
vicarious image which actually hovers before him 
in place of a concept. The character is not for 
him an aggregate composed of a studied collection 
of particular traits, but an irrepressibly live person 
appearing before his eyes, and differing only from 
the corresponding vision of the painter by its 
ever continued life and action. Why is it that 


Homer sketches much more vividly * than all the 
other poets? Because he contemplates f much 
more. We talk so abstractly about poetry, 
because we are all wont to be bad poets. At 
bottom the aesthetic phenomenon is simple : let a 
man but have the faculty of perpetually seeing a 
lively play and of constantly living surrounded 
by hosts of spirits, then he is a poet : let him but 
feel the impulse to transform himself and to talk 
from out the bodies and souls of others, then he 
is a dramatist. 

The Dionysian excitement is able to impart to 
a whole mass of men this artistic faculty of seeing 
themselves surrounded by such a host of spirits, 
with whom they know themselves to be inwardly 
one. This function of the tragic chorus is the 
*/ttzwtf/&rproto-phenomenon: to see one s self trans 
formed before one s self, and then to act as if one 
had really entered into another body, into another 
character. This function stands at the beginning 
of the development of the drama. Here we have 
something different from the rhapsodist, who does 
not blend with his pictures, but only sees them, 
like the painter, with contemplative eye outside 
of him ; here we actually have a surrender of the 
individual by his entering into another nature. 
Moreover this phenomenon appears in the form 
of an epidemic : a whole throng feels itself 
metamorphosed in this wise. Hence it is that the 
dithyramb is essentially different from every other 
variety of the choric song. The virgins, who with 

* Anschaulicher. tAnschaut. 


laurel twigs in their hands solemnly proceed to 
the temple of Apollo and sing a processional 
hymn, remain what they are and retain their 
civic names : the dithyrambic chorus is a chorus 
of transformed beings, whose civic past and social 
rank are totally forgotten : they have become the 
timeless servants of their god that live aloof from 
all the spheres of society. Every other variety 
of the choric lyric of the Hellenes is but an 
enormous enhancement of the Apollonian unit- 
singer : while in the dithyramb we have before us 
a community of unconscious actors, who mutually 
regard themselves as transformed among one 

This enchantment is the prerequisite of all 
dramatic art. In this enchantment the Dionysian 
reveller sees himself as a satyr, and as satyr he in 
turn beholds the god, that is, in his transformation 
he sees a new vision outside him as the Apollonian 
consummation of his state. With this new vision 
the drama is complete. 

According to this view, we must understand 
Greek tragedy as the Dionysian chorus, which 
always disburdens itself anew in an Apollonian 
world of pictures. The choric parts, therefore, 
with which tragedy is interlaced, are in a manner 
the mother-womb of the entire so-called dialogue, 
that is, of the whole stage-world, of the drama 
proper. In several successive outbursts does this 
primordial basis of tragedy beam forth the vision 
of the drama, which is a dream-phenomenon 
throughout, and, as such, epic in character: on 
the other hand, however, as objectivation of a 


Dionysian state, it does not represent the Apol 
lonian redemption in appearance, but, conversely, 
the dissolution of the individual and his unifica 
tion with primordial existence. Accordingly, the 
drama is the Apollonian embodiment of Dionysian 
perceptions and influences, and is thereby separated 
from the epic as by an immense gap. 

The chorus of Greek tragedy, the symbol of the 
mass of the people moved by Dionysian excite 
ment, is thus fully explained by our conception of 
it as here set forth. Whereas, being accustomed 
to the position of a chorus on the modern stage, 
especially an operatic chorus, we could never 
comprehend why the tragic chorus of the Greeks 
should be older, more primitive, indeed, more 
important than the " action " proper, as has been 
so plainly declared by the voice of tradition ; 
whereas, furthermore, we could not reconcile with 
this traditional paramount importance and primi- 
tiveness the fact of the chorus being composed 
only of humble, ministering beings ; indeed, at 
first only of goatlike satyrs ; whereas, finally, the 
orchestra before the scene was always a riddle to 
us ; we have learned to comprehend at length that 
the scene, together with the action, was funda 
mentally and originally conceived only as a vision, 
that the only reality is just the chorus, which of 
itself generates the vision and speaks thereof with 
the entire symbolism of dancing, tone, and word. 
This chorus beholds in the vision its lord and 
master Dionysus, and is thus for ever the serving 
chorus : it sees how he, the god, suffers and 
glorifies himself, and therefore docs not itself act. 


But though its attitude towards the god is through 
out the attitude of ministration, this is never 
theless the highest expression, the Dionysian 
expression of Nature, and therefore, like Nature 
herself, the chorus utters oracles and wise sayings 
when transported with enthusiasm : as fellow- 
sufferer it is also the sage proclaiming truth from 
out the heart of Nature. Thus, then, originates 
the fantastic figure, which seems so shocking, 
of the wise and enthusiastic satyr, who is at 
the same time " the dumb man " in contrast to 
the god : the image of Nature and her strongest 
impulses, yea, the symbol of Nature, and at the 
same time the herald of her art and wisdom : 
musician, poet, dancer, and visionary in one 

Agreeably to this view, and agreeably to 
tradition, Dionysus, the proper stage-hero and 
focus of vision, is not at first actually present in 
the oldest period of tragedy, but is only imagined 
as present : i.e., tragedy is originally only " chorus " 
and not " drama." Later on the attempt is made 
to exhibit the god as real and to display the 
visionary figure together with its glorifying en 
circlement before the eyes of all ; it is here that 
the " drama " in the narrow sense of the term 
begins. To the dithyrambic chorus is now as 
signed the task of exciting the minds of the 
hearers to such a pitch of Dionysian frenzy, that, 
when the tragic hero appears on the stage, they 
do not behold in him, say, the unshapely masked 
man, but a visionary figure, born as it were of 
their own ecstasy. Let us picture Admetes think- 


ing in profound meditation of his lately departed 
wife Alcestis, and quite consuming himself in 
spiritual contemplation thereof when suddenly 
the veiled figure of a woman resembling her in 
form and gait is led towards him : let us picture 
his sudden trembling anxiety, his agitated com 
parisons, his instinctive conviction and we shall 
have an analogon to the sensation with which the 
spectator, excited to Dionysian frenzy, saw the 
god approaching on the stage, a god with whose 
sufferings he had already become identified. lie 
involuntarily transferred the entire picture of the 
god, fluttering magically before his soul, to this 
masked figure and resolved its reality as it were 
into a phantasmal unreality. This is the 
Apollonian dream-state, in which the world of 
day is veiled, and a new world, clearer, more 
intelligible, more striking than the former, and 
nevertheless more shadowy, is ever born anew in 
perpetual change before our eyes. We accordingly 
recognise in tragedy a thorough-going stylistic 
contrast : the language, colour, flexibility and 
dynamics of the dialogue fall apart in the 
Uionysian lyrics of the chorus on the one hand, 
and in the Apollonian dream-world of the scene 
on the other, into entirely separate spheres of 
expression. The Apollonian appearances, in 
which Dionysus objectifies himself, are no longer 
" ein ewiges Mecr, ein wechselnd Weben, ein 
gluhend Leben," * as is the music of the chorus, 

* An eternal sea, A weaving, flowing, Life, all glowing. 
Faust, trans, of Bayard Taylor. TK. 


they are no longer the forces merely felt, but not 
condensed into a picture, by which the inspired 
votary of Dionysus divines the proximity of his 
god : the clearness and firmness of epic form now 
speak to him from the scene, Dionysus now no 
longer speaks through forces, but as an epic hero, 
almost in the language of Homer. 


Whatever rises to the surface in the dialogue of 
the Apollonian part of Greek tragedy, appears 
simple, transparent, beautiful. In this sense the 
dialogue is a copy of the Hellene, whose nature 
reveals itself in the dance, because in the dance 
the greatest energy is merely potential, but betrays 
itself nevertheless in flexible and vivacious move 
ments. The language of the Sophoclean heroes, 
for instance, surprises us by its Apollonian pre 
cision and clearness, so that we at once imagine we 
see into the innermost recesses of their being, and 
marvel not a little that the way to these recesses 
is so short. But if for the moment we disregard 
the character of the hero which rises to the surface 
and grows visible and which at bottom is nothing 
but the light-picture cast on a dark wall, that is, 
appearance through and through, if rather we 
enter into the myth which projects itself in these 
bright mirrorings, we shall of a sudden experience 
a phenomenon which bears a reverse relation to 
one familiar in optics. When, after a vigorous 
effort to gaze into the sun, we turn away blinded, 


we have dark-coloured spots before our eyes as 
restoratives, so to speak ; while, on the contrary, 
those light-picture phenomena of the Sophoclean 
hero, in short, the Apollonian of the mask, are 
the necessary productions of a glance into the 
secret and terrible things of nature, as it were 
shining spots to heal the eye which dire night 
has seared. Only in this sense can we hope to be 
able to grasp the true meaning of the serious and 
significant notion of " Greek cheerfulness " ; while 
of course we encounter the misunderstood notion 
of this cheerfulness, as resulting from a state of 
unendangered comfort, on all the ways and paths 
of the present time. 

The most sorrowful figure of the Greek stage, the 
hapless (Edifus^ was understood by Sophocles as 
the noble man, who in spite of his wisdom was 
destined to error and misery, but nevertheless 
through his extraordinary sufferings ultimately 
exerted a magical, wholesome influence on all 
around him, which continues effective even after 
his death. The noble man does not sin ; this is 
what the thoughtful poet wishes to tell us : all 
laws, all natural order, yea, the moral world itself, 
may be destroyed through his action, but through 
this very action a higher magic circle of influences 
is brought into play, which establish a new world 
on the ruins of the old that has been overthrown. 
This is what the poet, in so far as he is at the 
same time a religious thinker, wishes to tell us: 
as poet, he shows us first of all a wonderfully 
complicated legal mystery, which the judge slowly 
unravels, link by link, to his own destruction. 


The truly Hellenic delight at this dialectical loosen 
ing is so great, that a touch of surpassing cheer 
fulness is thereby communicated to the entire 
play, which everywhere blunts the edge of the 
horrible presuppositions of the procedure. In the 
"CEdipus at Colonus" we find the same cheerfulness, 
elevated, however, to an infinite transfiguration : in 
contrast to the aged king, subjected to an excess 
of misery, and exposed solely as a sufferer to all 
that befalls him, we have here a supermundane 
cheerfulness, which descends from a divine sphere 
and intimates to us that in his purely passive atti 
tude the hero attains his highest activity, the influ 
ence of which extends far beyond his life, while his 
earlier conscious musing and striving led him only 
to passivity. Thus, then, the legal knot of the fable 
of CEdipus, which to mortal eyes appears indis- 
solubly entangled, is slowly unravelled and the 
profoundest human joy comes upon us in the 
presence of this divine counterpart of dialectics. If 
this explanation does justice to the poet, it may 
still be asked whether the substance of the myth 
is thereby exhausted ; and here it turns out that 
the entire conception of the poet is nothing but the 
light-picture which healing nature holds up to us 
after a glance into the abyss. CEdipus, the murderer 
of his father, the husband of his mother, CEdipus, 
the interpreter of the riddle of the Sphinx ! What 
does the mysterious triad of these deeds of destiny 
tell us ? There is a primitive popular belief, especi 
ally in Persia, that a wise Magian can be born only 
of incest: which we have forthwith to interpret 
to ourselves with reference to the riddle-solving 


and mother-marrying CEdipus, to the effect that 
when the boundary of the present and future, the 
rigid law of individuation and, in general, the 
intrinsic spell of nature, are broken by prophetic 
and magical powers, an extraordinary counter- 
naturalness as, in this case, incest must have 
preceded as a cause ; for how else could one force 
nature to surrender her secrets but by victoriously 
opposing her, i.e., by means of the Unnatural ? It 
is this intuition which I see imprinted in the awful 
triad of the destiny of CEdipus : the very man who 
solves the riddle of nature that double-constituted 
Sphinx must also, as the murderer of his father 
and husband of his mother, break the holiest laws 
of nature. Indeed, it seems as if the myth sought 
to whisper into our ears that wisdom, especially 
Dionysian wisdom, is an unnatural abomination, 
and that whoever, through his knowledge, plunges 
nature into an abyss of annihilation, must also 
experience the dissolution of nature in himself. 
" The sharpness of wisdom turns round upon the 
sage : wisdom is a crime against nature " : such 
terrible expressions does the myth call out to us : 
but the Hellenic poet touches like a sunbeam the 
sublime and formidable Memnonian statue of the 
myth, so that it suddenly begins to sound in 
Sophoclean melodies. 

With the glory of passivity I now contrast 
the glory of activity which illuminates the 
Prometheus of yEschylus. That which /Eschylus 
the thinker had to tell us here, but which as 
a poet he only allows us to surmise by his 
symbolic picture, the youthful Goethe succeeded 


in disclosing to us in the daring words of his 
Prometheus : 

" Hier sitz ich, forme Menschen 
Nach meinem Bilde, 
Ein Geschlecht, das mir gleich sei, 
Zu leiden, zu weinen, 
Zu geniessen und zu freuen sich, 
Und dein nicht zu achten, 
Wie ich ! " * 

Man, elevating himself to the rank of the Titans, 
acquires his culture by his own efforts, and com 
pels the gods to unite with him, because in his 
self-sufficient wisdom he has their existence and 
their limits in his hand. What is most wonderful, 
however, in this Promethean form, which accord 
ing to its fundamental conception is the specific 
hymn of impiety, is the profound ^Eschylean 
yearning for justice-, the untold sorrow of the bold 
" single-handed being " on the one hand, and the 
divine need, ay, the foreboding of a twilight of the 
gods, on the other, the power of these two worlds 
of suffering constraining to reconciliation, to meta 
physical oneness all this suggests most forcibly 
the central and main position of the yEschylean 

* " Here sit I, forming mankind 
In my image, 
A race resembling me, 
To sorrow and to weep, 
To taste, to hold, to enjoy, 
And not have need of thee, 
As I ! " 

(Translation in Heeckel s History of the Evolution of Man.} 


view of things, which sees Moira as eternal justice 
enthroned above gods and men. In view of the 
astonishing boldness with which ^Eschylus places 
the Olympian world on his scales of justice, it 
must be remembered that the deep-minded Greek 
had an immovably firm substratum of meta 
physical thought in his mysteries, and that all his 
sceptical paroxysms could be discharged upon the 
Olympians. With reference to these deities, the 
Greek artist, in particular, had an obscure feeling 
as to mutual dependency : and it is just in the 
Prometheus of ^Eschylus that this feeling is sym 
bolised. The Titanic artist found in himself the 
daring belief that he could create men and at least 
destroy Olympian deities : namely, by his superior 
wisdom, for which, to be sure, he had to atone by 
eternal suffering. The splendid "can-ing" of the 
great genius, bought too cheaply even at the price 
of eternal suffering, the stern pride of the artist : 
this is the essence and soul of ^Eschylean poetry, 
while Sophocles in his CEdipus preludingly strikes 
up the victory-song of the saint. But even this 
interpretation which yEschylus has given to the 
myth does not fathom its astounding depth of 
terror ; the fact is rather that the artist s delight 
in unfolding, the cheerfulness of artistic creating 
bidding defiance to all calamity, is but a shining 
stellar and nebular image reflected in a black sea 
of sadness. The tale of Prometheus is an original 
possession of the entire Aryan family of races, and 
documentary evidence of their capacity for the 
profoundly tragic ; indeed, it is not improbable 
that this myth has the same characteristic signifi- 


cance for the Aryan race that the myth of the fall 
of man has for the Semitic, and that there is a 
relationship between the two myths like that of 
brother and sister. The presupposition of the 
Promethean myth is the transcendent value which 
a naive humanity attach to fire as the true palla 
dium of every ascending culture : that man, how 
ever, should dispose at will of this fire, and should 
not receive it only as a gift from heaven, as the 
igniting lightning or the warming solar flame, 
appeared to the contemplative primordial men as 
crime and robbery of the divine nature. And thus 
the first philosophical problem at once causes a 
painful, irreconcilable antagonism between man 
and God, and puts as it were a mass of rock at 
the gate of every culture. The best and highest 
that men can acquire they obtain by a crime, and 
must now in their turn take upon themselves its 
consequences, namely the whole flood of sufferings 
and sorrows with which the offended celestials 
must visit the nobly aspiring race of man : a bitter 
reflection, which, by the dignity it confers on crime, 
contrasts strangely with the Semitic myth of the 
fall of man, in which curiosity, beguilement, sedu- 
cibility, wantonness, in short, a whole series of 
pre-eminently feminine passions, were regarded as 
the origin of evil. What distinguishes the Aryan 
representation is the sublime view of active sin as 
the properly Promethean virtue, which suggests at 
the same time the ethical basis of pessimistic 
tragedy as fat justification of human evil of human 
guilt as well as of the suffering incurred thereby. 
The misery in the essence of things which 


the contemplative Aryan is not disposed to explain 
away the antagonism in the heart of the world, 
manifests itself to him as a medley of different 
worlds, for instance, a Divine and a human world, 
each of which is in the right individually, but as 
a separate existence alongside of another has to 
suffer for its individuation. With the heroic effort 
made by the individual for universality, in his 
attempt to pass beyond the bounds of individuation 
and become the one universal being, he experiences 
in himself the primordial contradiction concealed in 
the essence of things, i.e., he trespasses and suffers. 
Accordingly crime* is understood by the Aryans to 
be a man, sin f by the Semites a woman ; as also, 
the original crime is committed by man, the original 
sin by woman. Besides, the witches chorus says : 

" Wir nehmen das nicht so genau : 
Mit tausend Schritten macht s die Frau ; 
Doch wie sie auch sich eilen kann 
Mit einem Sprunge macht s der Mann."J 

He who understands this innermost core of the 
tale of Prometheus namely, the necessity of crime 
imposed on the titanically striving individual will 
at once be conscious of the un-Apollonian nature 
of this pessimistic representation : for Apollo seeks 
to pacify individual beings precisely by drawing 

* Der Frevel. t Die Suncle. 

J We do not measure with such care : 
Woman in thousand steps is there, 
But howsoe er she hasten may. 
Man in one leap has cleared the way. 

Faust, trans, of Bayard Taylor. TR. 


boundary-lines between them, and by again and 
again calling attention thereto, with his require 
ments of self-knowledge and due proportion, as the 
holiest laws of the universe. In order, however, to 
prevent the form from congealing to Egyptian 
rigidity and coldness in consequence of this 
Apollonian tendency, in order to prevent the 
extinction of the motion of the entire lake in the 
effort to prescribe to the individual wave its path and 
compass, the high tide of the Dionysian tendency 
destroyed from time to time all the little circles in 
which the one-sided Apollonian "will" sought to 
confine the Hellenic world. The suddenly swelling 
tide of the Dionysian then takes the separate little 
wave-mountains of individuals on its back, just as 
the brother of Prometheus, the Titan Atlas, does 
with the earth. This Titanic impulse, to become as 
it were the Atlas of all individuals, and to carry them 
on broad shoulders higher and higher, farther and 
farther, is what the Promethean and the Dionysian 
have in common. In this respect the yEschylean 
Prometheus is a Dionysian mask, while, in the afore 
mentioned profound yearning for justice, ^schylus 
betrays to the intelligent observer his paternal 
descent from Apollo, the god of individuation and 
of the boundaries of justice. And so the double- 
being of the yEschylean Prometheus, his conjoint 
Dionysian and Apollonian nature,might be thus ex 
pressed in an abstract formula : " Whatever exists is 
alike just and unjust, and equally justified in both." 

Das ist deine Welt ! Das heisst eine Welt ! * 

* This is thy world, and what a world! Faust, 


< fv> 

W / 



It is an indisputable tradition that Greek 
tragedy in its earliest form had for its theme only 
the sufferings of Dionysus, and that for some 
time the only stage-hero therein was simply 
Dionysus himself. With the same confidence, 
however, we can maintain that not until Euripides 
did Dionysus cease to be the tragic hero, and 
that in fact all the celebrated figures of the Greek 
stage Prometheus, CEdipus, etc. are but masks 
of this original hero, Dionysus. The presence of 
a god behind all these masks is the one essential 
cause of the typical " ideality," so oft exciting 
wonder, of these celebrated figures. Some one, 
I know not whom, has maintained that all 
individuals are comic as individuals and are 
consequently un-tragic : from whence it might be 
inferred that the Greeks in general could not 
endure individuals on the tragic stage. And 
they really seem to have had these sentiments : 
as, in general, it is to be observed that the 
Platonic discrimination and valuation of the 
" idea" in contrast to the "eidolon," the image, is 
deeply rooted in the Hellenic being. Availing 
ourselves of Plato s terminology, however, we 
should have to speak of the tragic figures of the 
Hellenic stage somewhat as follows. The one 
truly real Dionysus appears in a multiplicity of 
forms, in the mask of a fighting hero and entangled, 
as it were, in the net of an individual will. As 
the visibly appearing god now talks and acts, 
he resembles an erring, striving, suffering in- 


dividual : and that, in general, he appears with 
such epic precision and clearness, is due to the 
dream-reading Apollo, who reads to the chorus 
its Dionysian state through this symbolic appear 
ance. In reality, however, this hero is the 
suffering Dionysus of the mysteries, a god 
experiencing in himself the sufferings of individu- 
ation, of whom wonderful myths tell that as a 
boy he was dismembered by the Titans and has 
been worshipped in this state as Zagreus : * where 
by is intimated that this dismemberment, the 
properly Dionysian suffering, is like a transforma 
tion into air, water, earth, and fire, that we must 
therefore regard the state of individuation as the 
source and primal cause of all suffering, as some 
thing objectionable in itself. From the smile of 
this Dionysus sprang the Olympian gods, from 
his tears sprang man. In his existence as a 
dismembered god, Dionysus has the dual nature 
of a cruel barbarised demon, and a mild pacific 
ruler. But the hope of the epopts looked for a 
new birth of Dionysus, which we have now to 
conceive of in anticipation as the end of individua 
tion : it was for this coming third Dionysus that 
the stormy jubilation-hymns of the epopts re 
sounded. And it is only this hope that sheds 
a ray of joy upon the features of a world torn 
asunder and shattered into individuals : as is 
symbolised in the myth by Demeter sunk in 
eternal sadness, who rejoices again only when told 

* See article by Mr. Arthur Symons in The Academy, 3Otb 
August 1902. 


that she may once more give birth to Dionysus 
In the views of things here given we already have 
all the elements of a profound and pessimistic 
contemplation of the world, and along with these 
we have the mystery doctrine of tragedy : the 
fundamental knowledge of the oneness of all 
existing things, the consideration of individuation 
as the primal cause of evil, and art as the joyous 
hope that the spell of individuation may be 
broken, as the augury of a restored oneness. 

It has already been intimated that the Homeric 
epos is the poem of Olympian culture, wherewith 
this culture has sung its own song of triumph 
over the terrors of the war of the Titans. Under 
the predominating influence of tragic poetry, these 
Homeric myths are now reproduced anew, and 
show by this metempsychosis that meantime the 
Olympian culture also has been vanquished by a 
still deeper view of things. The haughty Titan Pro 
metheus has announced to his Olympian tormentor 
that the extremest danger will one day menace 
his rule, unless he ally with him betimes. In 
/Eschylus we perceive the terrified Zeus, appre 
hensive of his end, in alliance with the Titan. 
Thus, the former age of the Titans is subsequently 
brought from Tartarus once more to the light ot 
day. The philosophy of wild and naked nature 
beholds with the undissembled mien of truth the 
myths of the Homeric world as they dance past : 
they turn pale, they tremble before the lightning 
glance of this goddess till the powerful fist * of 

* Die miichtigc Faust. Cf. Faust \ Chorus of Spirits.-- TR 


the Dionysian artist forces them into the service 
of the new deity. Dionysian truth takes over 
the entire domain of myth as symbolism of its 
knowledge, which it makes known partly in 
the public cult of tragedy and partly in the 
secret celebration of the dramatic mysteries, 
always, however, in the old mythical garb. What 
was the power, which freed Prometheus from his 
vultures and transformed the myth into a vehicle 
of Dionysian wisdom ? It is the Heracleian 
power of music : which, having reached its highest 
manifestness in tragedy, can invest myths with a 
new and most profound significance, which we 
have already had occasion to characterise as the 
most powerful faculty of music. For it is the 
fate of every myth to insinuate itself into the 
narrow limits of some alleged historical reality, 
and to be treated by some later generation as 
a solitary fact with historical claims : and the 
Greeks were already fairly on the way to restamp 
the whole of their mythical juvenile dream 
sagaciously and arbitrarily into a historico-prag- 
matical juvenile history. For this is the manner 
in which religions are wont to die out : when of 
course under the stern, intelligent eyes of an 
orthodox dogmatism, the mythical presuppositions 
of a religion are systematised as a completed sum 
of historical events, and when one begins appre 
hensively to defend the credibility of the myth, 
while at the same time opposing all continuation 
of their natural vitality and luxuriance ; when, 
accordingly, the feeling for myth dies out, and its 
place is taken by the claim of religion to historical 


foundations. This dying myth was now seized 
by the new-born genius of Dionysian music, in 
whose hands it bloomed once more, with such 
colours as it had never yet displayed, with 
a fragrance that awakened a longing anticipa 
tion of a metaphysical world. After this final 
effulgence it collapses, its leaves wither, and soon 
the scoffing Lucians of antiquity catch at the 
discoloured and faded flowers which the winds 
carry off in every direction. Through tragedy the 
myth attains its profoundest significance, its most 
expressive form ; it rises once more like a 
wounded hero, and the whole surplus of vitality, 
together with the philosophical calmness of the 
Dying, burns in its eyes with a last powerful gleam. 
What meantest thou, oh impious Euripides, in 
seeking once more to enthral this dying one ? It 
died under thy ruthless hands : and then thou 
madest use of counterfeit, masked myth, which 
like the ape of Heracles could only trick itself 
out in the old finery. And as myth died in thy 
hands, so also died the genius of music ; though 
thou couldst covetously plunder all the gardens 
of music thou didst only realise a counterfeit, 
masked music. And because thou hast forsaken 
Dionysus, Apollo hath also forsaken thcc; rout up 
all the passions from their haunts and conjure 
them into thy sphere, sharpen and polish a 
sophistical dialectics for the speeches of thy 
heroes thy very heroes have only counterfeit, 
masked passions, and speak only counterfeit, 
masked music. 


I I. 

Greek tragedy Mad a fate different from that 
of all her older sister arts : she died by suicide, 
in consequence of an irreconcilable conflict ; 
accordingly she died tragically, while they all 
passed away very calmly and beautifully in ripe old 
age. For if it be in accordance with a happy state 
of things to depart this life without a struggle, 
leaving behind a fair posterity, the closing period 
of these older arts exhibits such a happy state of 
things : slowly they sink out of sight, and before 
their dying eyes already stand their fairer pro 
geny, who impatiently lift up their heads with 
courageous mien. The death of Greek tragedy, 
on the other hand, left an immense void, deeply 
felt everywhere. Even as certain Greek sailors 
in the time of Tiberius once heard upon a lone 
some island the thrilling cry, " great Pan is 
dead " : so now as it were sorrowful wailing 
sounded through the Hellenic world : " Tragedy 
is dead ! Poetry itself has perished with her ! 
Begone, begone, ye stunted, emaciated epigones ! 
Begone to Hades, that ye may for once eat your 
fill of the crumbs of your former masters ! " 

But when after all a new Art blossomed forth 
which revered tragedy as her ancestress and 
mistress, it was observed with horror that she did 
indeed bear the features of her mother, but those 
very features the latter had exhibited in her long 
death-struggle. It was Euripides who fought this 
death-struggle of tragedy ; the later art is known 
as the New Attic Comedy. In it the degenerate 


form of tragedy lived, on as a monument of the 
most painful and. violent death of tragedy proper. 

This connection between the two serves to 
explain the passionate attachment to Euripides 
evinced by the poets of the New Comedy, and 
hence we are no longer surprised at the wish of 
Philemon, who would have got himself hanged at 
once, with the sole design of being able to visit 
Euripides in the lower regions : if only he could 
be assured generally that the deceased still had 
his wits. But if we desire, as briefly as possible, 
and without professing to say aught exhaustive on 
the subject, to characterise what Euripides has in 
common with Menander and Philemon, and what 
appealed to them so strongly as worthy of imita 
tion : it will suffice to say that the spectator 
was brought upon the stage by Kuripides. He 
who has perceived the material of which the 
Promethean tragic writers prior to Euripides 
formed their heroes, and how remote from their 
purpose it was to bring the true mask of 
reality on the stage, will also know what to make 
of the wholly divergent tendency of Euripides. 
Through him the commonplace individual forced 
his way from the spectators benches to the stage 
itself; the mirror in which formerly only great 
and bold traits found expression now showed the 
painful exactness that conscientiously reproduces 
even the abortive lines of nature. Odysseus, the 
typical Hellene of the Old Art, sank, in the hands 
of the new poets, to the figure of the Gra_*culus, 
who, as the good-naturedly cunning domestic 
slave, stands henceforth in the centre of dramatic 


interest. What Euripides takes credit for in the 
Aristophanean " Frogs," namely, that by his 
household remedies he freed tragic art from its 
pompous corpulency, is apparent above all in his 
tragic heroes. The spectator now virtually saw 
and heard his double on the Euripidean stage, and 
rejoiced that he could talk so well. But this joy 
was not all : one even learned of Euripides how 
to speak : he prides himself upon this in his 
contest with ./Eschylus : how the people have 
learned from him how to observe, debate, and 
draw conclusions according to the rules of art and 
with the cleverest sophistications. In general it 
may be said that through this revolution of the 
popular language he made the New Comedy 
possible. For it was henceforth no longer a 
secret, how and with what saws the common 
place could represent and express itself on the 
stage. Civic mediocrity, on which Euripides 
built all his political hopes, was now suffered to 
speak, while heretofore the demigod in tragedy 
and the drunken satyr, or demiman, in comedy, 
had determined the character of the language. 
And so the Aristophanean Euripides prides him 
self on having portrayed the common, familiar, 
everyday life and dealings of the people, concern 
ing which all are qualified to pass judgment. If 
now the entire populace philosophises, manages 
land and goods with unheard-of circumspection, 
and conducts law-suits, he takes all the credit to 
himself, and glories in the splendid results of the 
wisdom with which he inoculated the rabble. 
It was to a populace prepared and enlightened 


in this manner that the New Comedy could now 
address itself, of which Euripides had become as 
it were the chorus-master ; only that in this case 
the chorus of spectators had to be trained. As 
soon as this chorus was trained to sing in the 
Euripidean key, there arose that chesslike variety 
of the drama, the New Comedy, with its perpetual 
triumphs of cunning and artfulness. But Eurip 
ides the chorus-master was praised inces 
santly : indeed, people would have killed them 
selves in order to learn yet more from him, had 
they not known that tragic poets were quite as 
dead as tragedy. But with it the Hellene had 
surrendered the belief in his immortality ; not only 
the belief in, an ideal past, but also the belief in an 
ideal future. The saying taken from the well- 
known epitaph, " as an old man, frivolous and 
capricious," applies also to aged Hellenism. The 
passing moment, wit, levity, and caprice, are its 
highest deities ; the fifth class, that of the slaves, 
now attains to power, at least in sentiment : and if 
we can still speak at all of " Greek cheerfulness," it 
is the cheerfulness of the slave who has nothing of 
consequence to answer for, nothing great to strive 
for, and cannot value anything of the past or future 
higher than the present. It was this semblance of 
" Greek cheerfulness " which so revolted the deep- 
minded and formidable natures of the first four 
centuries of Christianity : this womanish flight 
from earnestness and terror, this cowardly con- 
tentedness with easy pleasure, was not only con 
temptible to them, but seemed to be a specifically 
anti-Christian sentiment. And we must ascribe 


it to its influence that the conception of Greek 
antiquity, which lived on for centuries, preserved 
with almost enduring persistency that peculiar 
hectic colour of cheerfulness as if there had never 
been a Sixth Century with its birth of tragedy, its 
Mysteries, its Pythagoras and Heraclitus, indeed 
as if the art-works of that great period did not at 
all exist, which in fact each by itself can in no 
wise be explained as having sprung from the soil 
of such a decrepit and slavish love of existence 
and cheerfulness, and point to an altogether differ 
ent conception of things as their source. 

The assertion made a moment ago, that Eurip 
ides introduced the spectator on the stage to 
qualify him the better to pass judgment on the 
drama, will make it appear as if the old tragic art 
was always in a false relation to the spectator: 
and one would be tempted to extol the radical 
tendency of Euripides to bring about an adequate 
relation between art-work and public as an advance 
on Sophocles. But, as things are, " public " is 
merely a word, and not at all a homogeneous and 
constant quantity. Why should the artist be under 
obligations to accommodate himself to a power 
whose strength is merely in numbers ? And if by 
virtue of his endowments and aspirations he feels 
himself superior to every one of these spectators, 
how could he feel greater respect for the collect 
ive expression of all these subordinate capacities 
than for the relatively highest-endowed individual 
spectator ? In truth, if ever a Greek artist treated 
his public throughout a long life with presumptuous- 
ness and self-sufficiency, it was Euripides, who, 


even when the masses threw themselves at his feet, 
with sublime defiance made an open assault on his 
own tendency, the very tendency with which he 
had triumphed over the masses. If this genius 
had had the slightest reverence for the pande 
monium of the public, he would have broken down 
long before the middle of his career beneath the 
weighty blows of his own failures. These con 
siderations here make it obvious that our formula 
namely, that Euripides brought the spectator 
upon the stage in order to make him truly com 
petent to pass judgment was but a provisional 
one, and that we must seek for a deeper under 
standing of his tendency. Conversely, it is un 
doubtedly well known thatyEschylus and Sophocles 
during all their lives, indeed, far beyond their 
lives, enjoyed the full favour of the people, and 
that therefore in the case of these predecessors of 
Euripides the idea of a false relation between art 
work and public was altogether excluded. What 
was it that thus forcibly diverted this highly gifted 
artist, so incessantly impelled to production, from 
the path over which shone the sun of the greatest 
names in poetry and the cloudless heaven of 
popular favour ? What strange consideration for 
the spectator led him to defy the spectator ? How 
could he, owing to too much respect for the public 
dis-respect the public ? 

Euripides and this is the solution of the riddle 
just propounded felt himself, as a poet, un 
doubtedly superior to the masses, but not to two 
of his spectators : he brought the masses upon 
the stage ; these two spectators he revered as the 


only competent judges and masters of his art : in 
compliance with their directions and admonitions, 
he transferred the entire world of sentiments, 
passions, and experiences, hitherto present at every 
festival representation as the invisible chorus on 
the spectators benches, into the souls of his stage- 
heroes ; he yielded to their demands when he also 
sought for these new characters the new word and 
the new tone ; in their voices alone he heard the 
conclusive verdict on his work, as also the cheering 
promise of triumph when he found himself con 
demned as usual by the justice of the public. 

Of these two spectators the one is Euripides 
himself, Euripides as thinker ; not as poet. It 
might be said of him, that his unusually large fund 
of critical ability, as in the case of Lessing, if it did 
not create, at least constantly fructified a product 
ively artistic collateral impulse. With this faculty, 
with all the clearness and dexterity of his critical 
thought, Euripides had sat in the theatre and 
striven to recognise in the masterpieces of his great 
predecessors, as in faded paintings, feature and 
feature, line and line. And here had happened to 
him what one initiated in the deeper arcana of 
^Eschylean tragedy must needs have expected : 
he observed something incommensurable in every 
feature and in every line, a certain deceptive dis 
tinctness and at the same time an enigmatic pro 
fundity, yea an infinitude, of background. Even 
the clearest figure had always a comet s tail attached 
to it, which seemed to suggest the uncertain and 
the inexplicable. The same twilight shrouded the 
structure of the drama, especially the significance 


of the chorus. And how doubtful seemed the 
solution of the ethical problems to his mind ! 
How questionable the treatment of the myths ! 
How unequal the distribution of happiness and 
misfortune ! Even in the language of the Old 
Tragedy there was much that was objectionable to 
him, or at least enigmatical ; he found especially 
too much pomp for simple affairs, too many tropes 
and immense things for the plainness of the 
characters. Thus he sat restlessly pondering in 
the theatre, and as a spectator he acknowledged 
to himself that he did not understand his great 
predecessors. If, however, he thought the under 
standing the root proper of all enjoyment and 
productivity, he had to inquire and look about to 
see whether any one else thought as he did, and 
also acknowledged this incommensurability. But 
most people, and among them the best individuals, 
had only a distrustful smile for him, while none 
could explain why the great masters were still in 
the right in face of his scruples and objections. 
And in this painful condition he found that other 
spectator, who did not comprehend, and therefore 
did not esteem, tragedy. In alliance with him he 
could venture, from amid his lonesomeness, to begin 
the prodigious struggle against the art of /Kschylus 
and Sophocles not with polemic writings, but as 
a dramatic poet, who opposed his own conception 
of tragedy to the traditional one. 



Before we name this other spectator, let us 
pause here a moment in order to recall our own 
impression, as previously described, of the dis 
cordant and incommensurable elements in the 
nature of yEschylean tragedy. Let us think of 
our own astonishment at the chorus and the tragic 
hero of that type of tragedy, neither of which 
we could reconcile with our practices any more 
than with tradition till we rediscovered this 
duplexity itself as the origin and essence of Greek 
tragedy, as the expression of two interwoven artistic 
impulses, the Apollonian and the Dionysian. 

To separate this primitive and all-powerful 
Dionysian element from tragedy, and to build up 
a new and purified form of tragedy on the basis 
of a non-Dionysian art, morality, and conception 
of things such is the tendency of Euripides 
which now reveals itself to us in a clear light. 

In a myth composed in the eve of his life, 
Euripides himself most urgently propounded to 
his contemporaries the question as to the value 
and signification of this tendency. Is the 
Dionysian entitled to exist at all ? Should it not 
be forcibly rooted out of the Hellenic soil ? 
Certainly, the poet tells us, if only it were possible : 
but the god Dionysus is too powerful ; his most 
intelligent adversary like Pentheus in the 
" Bacchse " is unwittingly enchanted by him, 
and in this enchantment meets his fate. The 
judgment of the two old sages, Cadmus and 
Tiresias, seems to be also the judgment of the 


aged poet : that the reflection of the wisest indi 
viduals does not overthrow old popular traditions, 
nor the perpetually propagating worship ot 
Dionysus, that in fact it behoves us to display 
at least a diplomatically cautious concern in the 
presence of such strange forces : where however it 
is always possible that the god may take offence 
at such lukewarm participation, and finally change 
the diplomat in this case Cadmus into a 
dragon. This is what a poet tells us, who opposed 
Dionysus with heroic valour throughout a long 
life in order finally to wind up his career with 
a glorification of his adversary, and with suicide, 
like one staggering from giddiness, who, in order 
to escape the horrible vertigo he can no longer 
endure, casts himself from a tower. This tragedy 
the Bacchae is a protest against the practic 
ability of his own tendency ; alas, and it has already 
been put into practice ! The surprising thing had 
happened : when the poet recanted, his tendency 
had already conquered. Dionysus had already 
been scared from the tragic stage, and in fact by 
a demonic power which spoke through Euripides. 
Even Euripides was, in a certain sense, only a 
mask : the deity that spoke through him was 
neither Dionysus nor Apollo, but an altogether 
new-born demon, called Socrates. This is the 
nrw antilliLii : the Dionysian and the >"iMt:< 
and the art-work of Greek tragedy was wrecked 
on it._ What if even Euripides now seeks to 
comfort us by his recantation ? It is of no avail : 
the most magnificent temple lies in ruins. What 
avails the lamentation of the destroyer, and his 


confession that it was the most beautiful of all 
temples ? And even that Euripides has been 
changed into a dragon as a punishment by the 
art-critics of all ages who could be content with 
this wretched compensation ? 

Let us now approach this Socratic tendency 
with which Euripides combated and vanquished 
^Eschylean tragedy. 

We must now ask ourselves, what could be 
the ulterior aim of the Euripidean design, which, 
in the highest ideality of its execution, would 
found drama exclusively on the non-Dionysian ? 
What other form of drama could there be, if it 
was not to be born of the womb of music, in the 
mysterious twilight of the Dionysian ? Only the 
dramatised epos : in which Apollonian domain of 
art the tragic effect is of course unattainable. It 
does not depend on the subject-matter of the 
events here represented ; indeed, I venture to assert 
that it would have been impossible for Goethe 
in his projected " Nausikaa " to have rendered 
tragically effective the suicide of the idyllic being 
with which he intended to complete the fifth act ; 
so extraordinary is the power of the epic-Apol 
lonian representation, that it charms, before our 
eyes, the most terrible things by the joy in 
appearance and in redemption through appearance. 
The poet of the dramatised epos cannot completely 
blend with his pictures any more than the epic 
rhapsodist He is still just the calm, unmoved em 
bodiment of Contemplation whose wide eyes see the 
picture before them. The actor in this dramatised 
epos still remains intrinsically rhapsodist : the con- 


secration of inner dreaming is on all his actions, 
so that he is never wholly an actor. 

How, then, is the Euripidean play related to 
this ideal of the Apollonian drama? Just as the 
younger rhapsodist is related to the solemn 
rhapsodist of the old time. The former describes 
his own character in the Platonic " Ion " as 
follows: "When I am saying anything sad, my 
eyes fill with tears ; when, however, what I am 
saying is awful and terrible, then my hair stands 
on end through fear, and my heart leaps." Here 
we no longer observe anything of the epic absorp 
tion in appearance, or of the unemotional coolness 
of the true actor, who precisely in his highest 
activity is wholly appearance and joy in appear 
ance. Euripides is the actor with leaping heart, 
with hair standing on end ; as Socratic thinker 
he designs .the plan, as passionate actor he 
executes it. Neither in the designing nor in the 
execution is he an artist pure and simple. And 
so the Euripidean drama is a thing both cool and 
fiery, equally capable of freezing and burning ; it is 
impossible for it to attain the Apollonian effect of 
the epos,while,on the other has severed itself 
as much as possible from Dionysian elements, and 
now, in order to act at all, it requires new stimu 
lants, which can no longer lie within the sphere of 
the two unique art-impulses, the Apollonian and 
the Dionysian. The stimulants are cool, para 
doxical t/wug/iti, 

and fiery passion*-^ in. place of Dioaysiaa 
and in fact, thoughts and passions very realistically 
copied, and not at all steeped in the ether of art. 


Accordingly, if we have perceived this much, that 
Euripides did not succeed in establishing the drama 
exclusively on the Apollonian, but that rather his 
non-Dionysian inclinations deviated into a natural 
istic and inartistic tendency, we shall now be able 
to approach nearer to the character of 

*Jh.t supreme law of which reads about 
as follows : " to be beautiful everything must be 
intelligible," as the parallel to the Socratic proposi 
tion, " only the knowing jojieaoktRoy 5 -" With this 
canon in his hands Euripides measured all the 
separate elements of the drama, and rectified them 
according to his principle : the language, the char 
acters, the dramaturgic structure, and the choric 
music. The poetic deficiency and retrogression, 
which we are so often wont to impute to Euripides 
in comparison with Sophoclean tragedy, is for the 
most part the product of this penetrating critical 
process, this daring intelligibility. The Euripidean 
prologue may serve us as an example of the pro 
ductivity of this rationalistic method. Nothing 
could be more opposed to the technique of our stage 
than the prologue in the drama of Euripides. For 
a single person to appear at the outset of the play 
telling us who he is, what precedes the action, what 
has happened thus far, yea, what will happen in the 
course of the play, would be designated by a modern 
playwright as a wanton and unpardonable abandon 
ment of the effect of suspense. Everything that is 
about to happen is known beforehand ; who then 
cares to wait for it actually to happen ? consider 
ing, moreover, that here there is not by any means the 
exciting relation of a predicting dream to a reality 


taking place later on. Euripides speculated quite 
differently. The effect of tragedy never depended 
on epic suspense, on the fascinating uncertainty as 
to what is to happen now and afterwards : but 
rather on the great rhetoro-lyric scenes in which 
the passion and dialectics of the chief hero swelled 
to a broad and mighty stream. Everything was 
arranged for pathos, not for action : and whatever 
was not arranged for pathos was regarded as 
objectionable. But what interferes most with the 
hearer s pleasurable satisfaction in such scenes is a 
missing link, a gap in the texture of the previous 
history. So long as the spectator has to divine the 
meaning of this or that person, or the presupposi 
tions of this or that conflict of inclinations and 
intentions, his complete absorption in the doings 
and sufferings of the chief persons is impossible, 
as is likewise breathless fellow-feeling and fellow- 
fearing. The /Eschyleo-Sophoclean tragedy em 
ployed the most ingenious devices in the first scenes 
to place in the hands of the spectator as if by 
chance all the threads requisite for understanding 
the whole: a trait in which that noble artistry is 
approved, which as it were masks the inevitably 
formal, and causes it to appear as something acci 
dental. But nevertheless Euripides thought he 
observed that during these first scenes the spectator 
was in a strange state of anxiety to make out the 
problem of the previous history, so that the poetic 
beauties and pathos of the exposition were lost to 
him. Accordingly he placed the prologue even 
before the exposition, and put it in the mouth of a 
person who could be trusted : some deity had often 


as it were to guarantee the particulars of the 
tragedy to the public and remove every doubt as 
to the reality of the myth : as in the case of 
Descartes, who could only prove the reality of the 
empiric world by an appeal to the truthfulness of 
God and His inability to utter falsehood. Euripides 
makes use of the same divine truthfulness once 
more at the close of his drama, in order to ensure 
to the public the future of his heroes ; this is the 
task of the notorious deus ex machina. Between 
the preliminary and the additional epic spectacle 
there is the dramatico-lyric present, the " drama " 

Thus Euripides as a poet echoes above all his 
own conscious knowledge ; and it is precisely on 
this account that he occupies such a notable position 
in the history of Greek art. With reference to his 
critico-productive activity, he must often have felt 
that he ought to actualise in the drama the words 
at the beginning of the essay of Anaxagoras : "Jjn 
the beginning all things were mixed together ; then 
came the understanding and created order." And 
if Anaxagoras with his " v oO? ** seemed like the first 
sober person among nothing but drunken philoso 
phers, Euripides may also have conceived his rela 
tion to the other tragic poets under a similar figure. 
As long as the sole ruler and disposer of the universe, 
the vovs, was still excluded from artistic activity, 
things were all mixed together in a chaotic, primi 
tive mess; it is thus Euripides was obliged to think, 
it is thus he was obliged to condemn the " drunken " 
poets as the first " sober " one among them. What 
Sophocles said of ^Eschylus, that he did what was 


right, though unconsciously, was surely not in the: 
mind of Euripides : who would have admitted only 
thus much, that ^schylus, because he wrought 
unconsciously, did what was wrong. So also the 
divine Plato speaks for the most part only ironically 
of the creative faculty of the poet, in so far as it is 
not conscious insight, and places it on a par with 
the gift of the soothsayer and dream-interpreter ; 
insinuating that the poet is incapable of composing 
until he has become unconscious and reason has 
deserted him. Like Plato, Euripides undertook to 
show to the world the reverse of the " unintelligent " 
poet ; his aesthetic principle that " to be beautiful 
everything must be known " is, as I have said, the 
parallel to the Socratic " to be good everything must 
be known." Accordingly we may regard Euripides 
as the poet of aesthetic Socratism. Socrates, how- 
cver, was that second spectator who did not compre 
hend and therefore did not esteem the Old Tragedy; 
in alliance with him Euripides ventured to be the 
herald of a new artistic activity. If, then, the Old 
Tragedy was here destroyed, it follows that aesthetic 
Socratism was the murderous principle ; but in so 
far as the struggle is directed against the Dionysian 
element in the old art, we recognise in Socrates the 
opponent of Dionysus, the new Orpheus who rebels 
against Dionysus ; and although destined to be 
torn to pieces by the Maenads of the Athenian 
court, yet puts to flight the overpowerful god him 
self, who, when he fled from Lycurgus, the king 
of Edoni, sought refuge in the depths of the ocean 
namely, in the mystical flood of a secret cult 
which gradually overspread the earth. 


That Socrates stood in close relationship to 
Euripides in the tendency of his teaching, did 
not escape the notice of contemporaneous 
antiquity ; the most eloquent expression of this 
felicitous insight being the tale current in Athens, 
that Socrates was accustomed to help Euripides 
in poetising. Both names were mentioned in one 
breath by the adherents of the " good old time," 
whenever they came to enumerating the popular 
agitators of the day : to whose influence they 
attributed the fact that the old Marathonian 
stalwart capacity of body and soul was more and 
more being sacrificed to a dubious enlightenment, 
involving progressive degeneration of the physical 
and mental powers. It is in this tone, half 
indignantly and half contemptuously, that Aristo- 
phanic comedy is wont to speak of both of 
them to the consternation of modern men, who 
would indeed be willing enough to give up 
Euripides, but cannot suppress their amazement 
that Socrates should appear in Aristophanes as 
the first and head sophist, as the mirror and 
epitome of all sophistical tendencies ; in connec 
tion with which it offers the single consolation of 
putting Aristophanes himself in the pillory, as a 
rakish, lying Alcibiades of poetry. Without here 
defending the profound instincts of Aristophanes 
against such attacks, I shall now indicate, by 
means of the sentiments of the time, the close 
connection between Socrates and Euripides. 
With this purpose in view, it is especially to be 


remembered that Socrates, as an opponent of 
tragic art, did not ordinarily patronise tragedy, but 
only appeared among the spectators when a new 
play of Euripides was performed. The most 
noted thing, however, is the close juxtaposition 
of the two names in the Delphic oracle, which 
designated Socrates as the wisest of men, but at 
the same time decided that the second prize in 
the contest of wisdom was due to Euripides. 

Sophocles was designated as the third in this 
scale of rank ; he who could pride himself that, 
in comparison with yEschylus, he did what was 
right, and did it, moreover, because he knew what 
was right. It is evidently just the degree of 
clearness of this knowledge^ which distinguishes 
these three men in common as the three " knowing 
ones " of their age. 

The most decisive word, however, for this 
new and unprecedented esteem of knowledge and 
insight was spoken by Socrates when he found 
that he was the only one who acknowledged to 
himself that he knew nothing; while in his critical 
pilgrimage through Athens, and calling on the 
greatest statesmen, orators, poets, and artists, he 
discovered everywhere the conceit of knowledge. 
He perceived, to his astonishment, that all these 
celebrities were without a proper and accurate 
insight, even with regard to their own callings, 
and practised them only by instinct. " Only bv 
.j netinrt " : with this phrase we touch upon the 
heart &nd core of the Soccatic tendency. Socrat- 
ism condemns- therewith -existing art as wdl as 
existing ethics ; wherever Socratism turns its 


searching eyes it beholds the lack of insight and 
the power of illusion ; and from this lack infers 
the inner perversity and objection ableness of 
existing conditions. From this point onwards, 
Socrates believed that he was called upon to, 
correct existence ; and, with an air of disregard 
and superiority, as the precursor of an altogether 
different culture, art, and morality, he enters 
single-handed into a world, of which, if we 
reverently touched the hem, we should count it 
our greatest happiness. 

Here is the extraordinary hesitancy which 
always seizes upon us with regard to Socrates, 
and again and again invites us to ascertain 
the sense and purpose of this most question 
able phenomenon of antiquity. Who is it that 
ventures single-handed to disown the Greek char 
acter, which, as Homer, Pindar, and ^Eschylus, 
as Phidias, as Pericles, as Pythia and Dionysus, 
as the deepest abyss and the highest height, is 
sure of our wondering admiration ? What de 
moniac power is it which would presume to spill 
this magic draught in the dust ? What demigod 
is it to whom the chorus of spirits of the noblest 
of mankind must call out : " Weh ! Weh ! Du 
hast sie zerstort, die schone Welt, mit machtiger 
Faust ; sie stiirzt, sie zerfallt ! " * 

*Woe! Woe ! 
Thou hast it destroyed, 
The beautiful world ; 
With powerful fist ; 
In ruin tis hurled ! 
Faust) trans, of Bayard Taylor. TR. 


A key to the character of Socrates is presented 
to us by the surprising phenomenon designated 
as the " daimonion " of Socrates. In special 
circumstances, when his gigantic intellect began 
to stagger, he got a secure support in the utter 
ances of a divine voice which then spake to him. 
This voice, whenever it comes, always dissuades. 
In this totally abnormal nature instinctive wisdom 
only appears in order to hinder the progress of 
conscious perception here and there. While in 
all productive men it is instinct which is the 
creatively affirmative force, consciousness only 
comporting itself critically and dissuasively ; with 
Socrates it is instinct which becomes critic, it is 
consciousness which becomes creator a perfect 
monstrosity per defectum ! And we do indeed 
observe here a monstrous defectus of all mystical 
aptitude, so that Socrates might be designated as 
the specific non-mystic> in whom the logical nature 
is developed, through a superfoetation, to the 
same excess as instinctive wisdom is developed 
in the mystic. On the other hand, however, the 
logical instinct which appeared in Socrates was 
absolutely prohibited from turning against itself ; 
in its unchecked flow it manifests a native power 
such as we meet with, to our shocking surprise, 
only among the very greatest instinctive forces. 
He who has experienced even a breath of the 
divine naivete* and security of the Socratic course 
of life in the Platonic writings, will also feel that 
the enormous driving-wheel of logical Socratism 
is in motion, as it were, behind Socrates, and that 
it must be viewed through Socrates as through a 


shadow. And that he himself had a boding of 
this relation is apparent from the dignified earnest 
ness with which he everywhere, and even before 
his judges, insisted on his divine calling. To 
refute him here was really as impossible as to 
approve of his instinct-disintegrating influence. 
In view of this indissoluble conflict, when he had 
at last been brought before the forum of the Greek 
state, there was only one punishment demanded, 
namely exile ; he might have been sped across 
the borders as something thoroughly enigmatical, 
irrubricable and inexplicable, and so posterity would 
have been quite unjustified in charging the Athenians 
with a deed of ignominy. But that the sentence of 
death, and not mere exile, was pronounced upon 
him, seems to have been brought about by Socrates 
himself, with perfect knowledge of the circum 
stances, and without the natural fear of death : he 
met his death with the calmness with which, 
according to the description of Plato, he leaves 
the symposium at break of day, as the last of the 
revellers, to begin a new day ; while the sleepy 
companions remain behind on the benches and 
the floor, to dream of Socrates, the true eroticist. 
The dying Socrates became the new ideal of the 
noble Greek youths, an ideal they had never 
yet beheld, and above all, the typical Hellenic 
youth, Plato, prostrated himself before this scene 
with all the fervent devotion of his visionary 


Let us now imagine the one great Cyclopean 
eye of Socrates fixed on tragedy, that eye in which 
the fine frenzy of artistic enthusiasm had never 
glowed let us think how it was denied to this 
eye to gaze with pleasure into the Dionysian 
abysses what could it not but see in the " sublime 
and greatly lauded " tragic art, as Plato called it ? 
Something very absurd, with causes that seemed 
to be without effects, and effects apparently with 
out causes ; the whole, moreover, so motley and 
diversified that it could not but be repugnant to a 
thoughtful mind, a dangerous incentive, however, 
to sensitive and irritable souls. We know what 
was the sole kind of poetry which he compre 
hended : the JEsopian fable : and he did this no 
doubt \vith that smiling complaisance with which 
the good honest Gellert sings the praise of poetry 
in the fable of the bee and the hen : 

" Du siehst an mir, wozu sie niitzt, 
Dem, der nicht viel Verstand besitzt, 
Die Wahrheit durch ein Bild zu sagen." ^ 

But then it seemed to Socrates that tragic art did 
not even " tell the truth " : not to mention the 
fact that it addresses itself to him who " hath but 
little wit " ; consequently not to the philosopher : 
a twofold reason why it should be avoided. Like 

* In me thou seest its benefit, 
To him who hath but little wit, 
Through parables to tell the truth. 


Plato, he reckoned it among the seductive arts 
which only represent the agreeable, not the useful, 
and hence he required of his disciples abstinence 
and strict separation from such unphilosophical 
allurements ; with such success that the youthful 
tragic poet Plato first of all burned his poems to 
be able to become a scholar of Socrates. But 
where unconquerable native capacities bore up 
against the Socratic maxims, their power, to 
gether with the momentum of his mighty character, 
still sufficed to force poetry itself into new and 
hitherto unknown channels. 

An instance of this is the aforesaid Plato : he, 
who in the condemnation of tragedy and of art 
in general certainly did not fall short of the nai ve 
cynicism of his master, was nevertheless constrained 
by sheer artistic necessity to create a form of art 
which is inwardly related even to the then exist 
ing forms of art which he repudiated. Plato s 
main objection to the old art that it is the 
imitation of a phantom,* and hence belongs to 
a sphere still lower than the empiric world could 
not at all apply to the new art : and so we find 
Plato endeavouring to go beyond reality and 
attempting to represent the idea which underlies 
this pseudo-reality. But Plato, the thinker, 
thereby arrived by a roundabout road just at 
the point where he had always been at home as 
poet, and from which Sophocles and all the old 
artists had solemnly protested against that objec 
tion. If tragedy absorbed into itself all the 

. TR. 


earlier varieties of art, the same could again be 
said in an unusual sense of Platonic dialogue, 
which, engendered by a mixture of all the 
then existing forms and styles, hovers midway 
between narrative, lyric and drama, between prose 
and poetry, and has also thereby broken loose 
from the older strict law of unity of linguistic 
form ; a movement which was carried still farther 
by the cynic writers, who in the most promiscuous 
style, oscillating to and fro betwixt prose and 
metrical forms, realised also the literary picture 
of the " raving Socrates " whom they were wont 
to represent in life. Platonic, diajggufi was as. it 
were the boat in which the shipwrecked ancient 
poetry saved herself together with all her children : 
crowded into a narrow space and timidly obse 
quious to the one steersman, Socrates, they now 
launched into a new world, which never tired of 
looking at the fantastic spectacle of this procession. 
In very truth, Pjato has given to all posterity 
the prototype of a new form of art, the prototype 
of the navel: which must be designated as the 
infinitely evolved .L^upiaii fable, in which poetry 
holds the same rank with reference to dialectic 
philosophy as this same philosophy held for many 
centuries with reference to theology : namely, the 
rank of ancilla. This was the new position of 
poetry into which Plato forced it under the 
pressure of the demon-inspired Socrates. 

Here philosophic thought overgrows art and 
compels it to cling close to the trunk of dialectics. 
The Apollonian tendency has chrysalised in the 
logical schematism ; just as something analogous 


in the case of Euripides (and moreover a trans 
lation of the Dionysian into the naturalistic 
emotion) was forced upon our attention. Socrates, 
the dialectical hero in Platonic drama, reminds us 
of the kindred nature of the Euripidean hero, who 
has to defend his actions by arguments and 
counter- arguments, and thereby so often runs the 
risk of forfeiting our tragic pity ; for who could 
mistake the optimistic element in the essence of 
dialectics, which celebrates a jubilee in every con 
clusion, and can breathe only in cool clearness 
and consciousness : the optimistic element, which, 
having once forced its way into tragedy, must 
gradually overgrow its Dionysian regions, and 
necessarily impel it to self-destruction even to 
the death-leap into the bourgeois drama. Let us 
but realise the consequences of the Socratic 
maxims : " Virtue is knowledge ; man only sins 
from ignorance ; he who is virtuous is happy " : 
these three fundamental forms of optimism involve 
the death of tragedy. For the virtuous .hero 
must now be a dialectician ; there must now be 
a necessary, visible connection between virtue and 
knowledge, between belief and morality ; the 
transcendental justice of the plot in ^Eschylus is 
now degraded to the superficial and audacious 
principle of " poetic justice " with its usual deus ex 

How does the chorus, and, in general, the 
entire Dionyso-musical substratum of tragedy, 
now appear in the light of this new Socrato- 
optimistic stage-world ? As something accidental, 
as a readily dispensable reminiscence of the origin 


of tragedy ; while we have in fact seen that the 
chorus can be understood only as the cause of 
tragedy, and of the tragic generally. This per 
plexity with respect to the chorus first manifests 
itself in Sophocles an important sign that the 
Dionysian basis of tragedy already begins to 
disintegrate with him. He no longer ventures 
to entrust to the chorus the main share of the 
effect, but limits its sphere to such an extent 
that it now appears almost co-ordinate with the 
actors, just as if it were elevated from the orchestra 
into the scene: whereby of course its. character 
is completely destroyed, notwithstanding that 
Aristotle countenances this very theory of the 
chorus. This alteration of the position of the 
chorus, which Sophocles at any rate recommended 
by his practice, and, according to tradition, even 
by a treatise, is the first step towards the annihila 
tion of the chorus, the phases of which follow one 
another with alarming rapidity in Euripides, 
Agathon, and the New Comedy. Optimistic 
dialectics drives music out of tragedy with the 
scourge of its syllogisms : that is, it destroys the 
essence of tragedy, which can be explained only 
as a manifestation and illustration of Dionysian 
states, as the visible symbolisation of music, as 
the dream-world of Dionysian ecstasy. 

If, therefore, we are to assume an anti-Diony- 
sian tendency operating even before Socrates, 
which received in him only an unprecedentedly 
grand expression, we must not shrink from the 
question as to what a phenomenon like that 
of Socrates indicates : whom in view of the 


Platonic dialogues we are certainly not entitled 
to regard as a purely disintegrating, negative 
power. And though there can be no doubt 
whatever that the most immediate effect of the 
Socratic impulse tended to the dissolution of 
Dionysian tragedy, yet a profound experience of 
Socrates own life compels us to ask whether 
there is necessarily only an antipodal relation 
between Socratism and art, and whether the birth 
of an " artistic Socrates " is in general something 
contradictory in itself. 

For that despotic logician had now and then 
the feeling of a gap, or void, a sentiment of semi- 
reproach, as of a possibly neglected duty with 
respect to art. There often came to him, as he 
tells his friends in prison, one and the same 
dream-apparition, which kept constantly repeating 
to him : " Socrates, practise music." Up to his 
very last days he solaces himself with the opinion 
that his philosophising is the highest form of 
poetry, and finds it hard to believe that a deity 
will remind him of the " common, popular music." 
Finally, when in prison, he consents to practise 
also this despised music, in order thoroughly to 
unburden his conscience. And in this frame of 
mind he composes a poem on Apollo and turns 
a few jEsopian fables into verse. It was some 
thing similar to the demonian warning voice which 
urged him to these practices ; it was because of his 
Apollonian insight that, like a barbaric king, he 
did not understand the noble image of a god and 
was in danger of sinning against a deity through 
ignorance. The prompting voice of the Socratic 


dream-vision is the only sign of doubtfulness as 
to the limits of logical nature. " Perhaps " thus 
he had to ask himself " what is not intelligible 
to me is not therefore unreasonable? Perhaps 
there is a realm of wisdom from which the logician 
is banished ? Perhaps art is even a necessary 
correlative of and supplement to science ? " 

In the sense of these last portentous questions 
it must now be indicated how the influence of 
Socrates (extending to the present moment, indeed, 
to all futurity) has spread over posterity like an 
ever-increasing shadow in the evening sun, and 
how this influence again and again necessitates a 
regeneration at art, yea, of art already with meta 
physical, broadest and profoundest sense, and 
its own eternity guarantees also the eternity of art. 

Before this could be perceived, before the in 
trinsic dependence of every art on the Greeks, 
the Greeks from Homer to Socrates, was con 
clusively demonstrated, it had to happen to us 
with regard to these Greeks as it happened to 
the Athenians with regard to Socrates. Nearly 
every age and stage of culture has at some time 
or other sought with deep displeasure to free 
itself from the Greeks, because in their presence 
everything self-achieved, sincerely admired and 
apparently quite original, seemed all of a sudden 
to lose life and colour and shrink to an abortive 
copy, even to caricature. And so hearty in 
dignation breaks forth time after time against 


this presumptuous little nation, which dared to 
designate as " barbaric " for all time everything 
not native : who are they, one asks one s self, 
who, though they possessed only an ephemeral 
historical splendour, ridiculously restricted institu 
tions, a dubious excellence in their customs, and 
were even branded with ugly vices, yet lay claim 
to the dignity and singular position among the 
peoples to which genius is entitled among the 
masses. What a pity one has not been so fortunate 
as to find the cup of hemlock with which such an 
affair could be disposed of without ado : for 
all the poison which envy, calumny, and rankling 
resentment engendered within themselves have 
not sufficed to destroy that self-sufficient grandeur ! 
And so one feels ashamed and afraid in the 
presence of the Greeks : unless one prize truth 
above all things, and dare also to acknowledge to 
one s self this truth, that the Greeks, as charioteers, 
hold in their hands the reins of our own and of 
every culture, but that almost always chariot and 
horses are of too poor material and incom 
mensurate with the glory of their guides, who 
then will deem it sport to run such a team into 
an abyss : which they themselves clear with the 
leap of Achilles. 

In order to assign also to Socrates the dignity 
of such a leading position, it will suffice to recog 
nise in him the type of an unheard-of form of 
existence, the type of the theoretical^ man, with 
regard to whose meaning and purpose it will be 
our next task to attain an insight. Lake. the. artist, 
the theorist also finds an infinite satisfaction in 


what is, and, like the former, he is shielded by this 
satisfaction from the practical ethics of pessimism 
with its lynx eyes which shine only in the dark. 
For if the artist in every unveiling of truth always 
cleaves with raptured eyes only to that which still 
remains veiled after the unveiling, the theoretical 
man, on the other hand, enjoys and contents 
himself with the cast-off veil, and finds the con 
summation of his pleasure in the process of a 
continuously successful unveiling through his 
own unaided efforts. There would have been no 
science if it had only been concerned about that 
one naked goddess and nothing else. For then 
its disciples would have been obliged to feel like 
those who purposed to dig a hole straight through 
the earth : each one of whom perceives that with 
the utmost lifelong exertion he is able to excavate 
only a very little of the enormous depth, which is 
again filled up before his eyes by the labours of 
his successor, so that a third man seems to do 
well when on his own account he selects a new 
spot for his attempts at tunnelling. If now some 
one proves conclusively that the antipodal goal 
cannot be attained in this direct way, who will 
still care to toil on in the old depths, unless he 
has learned to content himself in the meantime 
with finding precious stones or discovering natural 
laws ? For that reason Lessing, the most honest 
theoretical man, ventured to say that he cared 
more for the search after truth than for truth 
itself: in saying which he revealed the funda 
mental secret of science, to the astonishment, and 
indeed, to the vexation of scientific men. Well, 


to be sure, there stands alongside of this detached 
perception, as an excess of honesty, if not of 
presumption, a profound illusion which first came 
to the world in the person of Socrates, the im 
perturbable belief that, by means of the clue of 
causality, thinking reaches to the deepest abysses 
of being, and that thinking is able not only to 
perceive being but even to correct it. This sublime 
metaphysical illusion is added as an instinct to 
science and again and again leads the latter to 
its limits, where it must change into art ; which is 
really the end to be attained by this mechanism. 

If we now look at Socrates in the light of this 
thought, he appears to us as the first who could 
not only live, but what is far more also die 
under the guidance of this instinct of science: 
and hence the picture of the dying Socrates, as 
the man delivered from the fear of death by 
knowledge and argument, is the escutcheon above 
the entrance to science which reminds every one 
of its mission, namely, to make existence appear 
to be comprehensible, and therefore to be justified : 
for which purpose, if arguments do.. not ._ suffice, 
myth also must be used, which I just now desig 
nated even as the necessary consequence, yea, 
as the end of science. 

He who once makes intelligible to himself how, 
after the death of Socrates, the mystagogue of 
science, one philosophical school succeeds another, 
like wave upon wave, how an entirely unfore- 
shadowed universal development of the thirst for 
knowledge in the widest compass of the cultured 
world (and as the specific task for every one 


highly gifted) led science on to the high sea from 
which since then it has never again been able to 
be completely ousted ; how through the universality 
of this movement a common net of thought was 
first stretched over the entire globe, with prospects, 
moreover, of conformity to law in an entire solar 
system ; he who realises all this, together with 
the amazingly high pyramid of our present-day 
knowledge, cannot fail to see in Socrates the 
turning-point and vortex of so-called universal 
history. For if one were to imagine the whole 
incalculable sum of energy which has been used 
up by that universal tendency, employed, not in 
the service of knowledge, but for the practical, i.e., 
egoistical ends of individuals and peoples, then 
probably the instinctive love of life would be so 
much weakened in universal wars of destruction 
and incessant migrations of peoples, that, owing 
to the practice of suicide, the individual would 
perhaps feel the last remnant of a sense of duty, 
when, like the native of the Fiji Islands, as son 
he strangles his parents and, as friend, his friend : 
a practical pessimism which might even give rise 
to a horrible ethics of general slaughter out of 
pity which, for the rest, exists and has existed 
wherever art in one form or another, especially as 
science and religion, has not appeared as a remedy 
and preventive of that pestilential breath. 

In view of this practical pessimism, Socrates is 
the archetype of the theoretical optimist, who in 
the above-indicated belief in the fathomableness of 
the nature of things, attributes to knowledge and 
perception the power of a universal medicine, and 


sees injerrpr evil in itself. To penetrate into the 
depths of the nature of things, and to separate 
true perception from error and illusion, appeared 
to the Socratic man the noblest and even the only 
tfuly~Tfuriran calling: just as frorrTTrie" timeof 
Socrates onwards the mechanism of concepts, judg 
ments, and inferences was prized above all other 
capacities as the highest activity and the most 
admirable gift of nature. Even the sublimest 
moral acts, the stirrings of pity, of self-sacrifice, of 
heroism, and that tranquillity of soul, so difficult 
of attainment, which the Apollonian Greek called 
Sophrosyne, were derived by Socrates, and his 
like-minded successors up to the present day, from 
the dialectics of knowledge, and were accordingly 
designated as teachable. He who has experienced 
in himself the joy of a Socratic perception, and 
felt how it seeks to embrace, in constantly widening 
circles, the entire world of phenomena, will thence 
forth find no stimulus which could urge him to 
existence more forcible than the desire to complete 
that conquest and to knit the net impenetrably 
close. To a person thus minded the Platonic 
Socrates then appears as the teacher of an entirely 
new form of " Greek cheerfulness " and felicity of 
existence, which seeks to discharge itself in actions, 
and will find its discharge for the most part in 
maieutic and pedagogic influences on noble youths, 
with a view to the ultimate production of genius. 

But now science, spurred on by its powerful 
illusion, hastens irresistibly to its limits, on which 
its optimism, hidden in the essence of logic, is 
wrecked. For the periphery of the circle of 


science has an infinite number of points, and 
while there is still no telling how this circle can 
ever be completely measured, yet the noble and 
gifted man, even before the middle of his career, 
inevitably comes into contact with those extreme 
points of the periphery where he stares at the 
inexplicable. When he here sees to his dismay 
how logic coils round itself at these limits and 
finally bites its own tail then the new form of 
perception discloses itself, namely tragic perception, 
which, in order even to be endured, requires art as 
a safeguard and remedy. 

If, with eyes strengthened and refreshed at the 
sight of the Greeks, we look upon the highest 
spheres of the world that surrounds us, we behold 
the avidity of the insatiate optimistic knowledge, 
of which Socrates is the typical representative, 
transformed into tragic resignation and the need 
of art : while, to be sure, this same avidity, in its 
lower stages, has to exhibit itself as antagonistic to 
art, and must especially have an inward detestation 
of Dionyso-tragic art, as was exemplified in the 
opposition of Socratism to ^Eschylean tragedy. 

Here then with agitated spirit we knock at 
the gates of the present and the future : will that 
" transforming " lead to ever new configurations 
of genius, and especially of the music-practising 
Socrates? Will the net of art which is spread 
over existence, whether under the name of religion 
or of science, be knit always more closely and 
delicately, or is it destined to be torn to shreds 
under the restlessly barbaric activity and whirl 
which is called " the present day " ? Anxious, 


yet not disconsolate, we stand aloof for a little 
while, as the spectators who are permitted 
to be witnesses of these tremendous struggles 
and transitions. Alas ! It is the charm of these 
struggles that he who beholds them must also 
fight them ! 

1 6. 

By this elaborate historical example we have 
endeavoured to make it clear that tragedy perishes 
as surely by the evanescence of the" spirit of music 
as it can be born only out of this spirit. In order 
to qualify the singularity of this assertion, and, 
on the other hand, to disclose the source of this 
insight of ours, we must now confront with clear 
vision the analogous phenomena of the present 
time ; we must enter into the midst of these 
struggles, which, as I said just now, are being 
carried on in the highest spheres of our present 
world between the insatiate optimistic perception 
and the tragic need of art. In so doing I shall 
leave out of consideration all other antagonistic 
tendencies which at all times oppose art, especially 
tragedy, and which at present again extend their 
sway triumphantly, to such an extent that of the 
theatrical arts only the farce and the ballet, for 
example, put forth their blossoms, which perhaps 
not every one cares to smell, in tolerably rich 
luxuriance. I will speak only of the Most Illus 
trious Opposition to the tragic conception of things 
and by this I mean essentially optimistic 
science, with its ancestor Socrates at the head of 
it. Presently also the forces will be designated 


which seem to me to guarantee a re-birth oj 
tragedy and who knows what other blessed hopes 
for the German genius ! 

Before we plunge into the midst of these 
struggles, let us array ourselves in the armour of 
our hitherto acquired knowledge. In contrast to 
all those who are intent on deriving the arts from 
one exclusive principle, as the necessary vital 
source of every work of art, I keep my eyes fixed 
on the two artistic deities of the Greeks, Apollo 
and Dionysus, and recognise in them the living 
and conspicuous representatives of tuuo worlds of 
art which differ in their intrinsic essence and in 
their highest aims. Apollo stands before me as 
the transfiguring genius of the principium indi- 
viduationis through which alone the redemption 
in appearance is to be truly attained, while by the 
mystical cheer of Dionysus the spell of individua- 
tion is broken, and the way lies open to the 
Mothers of Being,* to the innermost heart of 
things. This extraordinary antithesis, which 
opens up yawningly between plastic art as the 
Apollonian and music as the Dionysian art, has 
become_manifcst tQ only. one. of .the great thinkers, 
to such an extent that, even without this key 
to the symbolism of the Hellenic divinities, he 
allow_ed to music a different character and origin 
in advance of all the other arts, because, unlike 
them, it is not a copy of the phenomenon, but a 
direct copy of the will. itseJX~and "therefore reprc- 
*i metapliysical \. 

* Cf. Faust, Part II. Act i.-TR. 


the thing-in-itself of every phenomenon. 
(Schopenhauer, Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 
I. 310.) To this most important perception of 
aesthetics (with which, taken in a serious sense, 
aesthetics properly commences), Richard Wagner, 
by way of confirmation of its eternal truth, affixed 
his seal, when he asserted in his Beethoven that 
music must be judged according to aesthetic prin 
ciples quite different from those which apply to 
the plastic arts, and not, in general, (according to 
the category of beauty: although an erroneous 
aesthetics, inspired by a misled and degenerate art, 
has by virtue of the concept of beauty prevailing 
in the plastic domain accustomed itself to demand 
of music an effect analogous to that of the works 
of plastic art, namely the suscitating of delight 
in beautiful forms. Upon perceiving this extra 
ordinary antithesis, I felt a strong inducement to 
approach the essence of Greek tragedy, and, by 
means of it, the profoundest revelation of Hellenic 
genius : for I at last thought myself to be in posses 
sion of a charm to enable me far beyond the 
phraseology of our usual aesthetics to represent 
vividly to my mind the primitive problem of 
tragedy : whereby such an astounding insight into 
the Hellenic character was afforded me that it 
necessarily seemed as if our proudly comporting 
classico-Hellenic science had thus far contrived 
to subsist almost exclusively on phantasmagoria 
and externalities. 

Perhaps we may lead up to this primitive 
problem with the question : what .aesthetic effect 
results when the intrinsically separate art-powers, 


the Apollonian and the Dionysian, enter into con 
current actions ? Or, in briefer form : how is {Q iniflgf .a.nd_, CQUCCJit ? Schopen 
hauer, whom Richard Wagner, with especial 
reference to this point, accredits with an unsur 
passable clearness and perspicuity of exposition, 
expresses himself most copiously on the subject 
in the following passage which I shall cite here at 
full length * ( Welt als Willc und Vorstcllung, I. 
p. 309): " According to all this, we may regard 
the phenomenal world, or natur.e^.and music as 
two different expressions of the same thing.f which 
is therefore itself the only medium of the analogy 
between these two expressions, so that a know 
ledge of this medium is required in order to 
understand that analogy. Music, therefore, if 
regarded as an expression of the world, is in 
the highest degree a universal language, which 
is related indeed to the universality of concepts, 
much as these are related to the particular things. 
Its universality, however, is by no means the 
empty universality of abstraction, but of quite a 
different kind, and is united with thorough and 
distinct defmitcness. In this respect it resembles 
geometrical figures and numbers, which are the 
universal forms of all possible_qbjects of .experience 
and applicable to them all a priori^ and yet are 
not abstract but perceptible and thoroughly 
determinate. All possible efforts, excitements 

* Cf. World and Will as Idea, I. p. 339, trans, by Haklanc 
and Kemp. 

t That is " the will " as understood by Schopenhauer. 


and manifestations of will, all that goes on in the 
heart of man and that reason includes in the wide, 
negative concept of feeling, may be expressed 
by the infinite number of possible melodies, but 
always in the .universality of mere form, without 
the material, always according to the thing-in- 
itself, not the phenomenon, of which they repro 
duce the very soul and essence as it were, without 
the body. This deep relation which music bears 
to the true nature of all things also explains the 
fact that suitable music played to any scene, 
action, event, or surrounding seems to disclose 
to us its most secret meaning, and appears as 
the most accurate and distinct commentary upon 
it ; as also the fact that whoever gives himself 
up entirely to the impression of a symphony 
seems to see all the possible events of life and 
the world take place in himself: nevertheless 
upon reflection he can find no likeness between 
the music and the things that passed before his 
mind. For, as we have said, music is distinguished 
from all the other arts by the fact that it is not 
a copy of the phenomenon, or, more accurately, 
the adequate objectivity of the will, but is the 
direct copy of the will itself, and therefore 
represents the metaphysical of everything physical 
in the world, and the thing-in-itself of every 
phenomenon. We might, therefore, just as well 
call the world embodied music as embodied will : 
and this is the reason why music makes every 
picture, and indeed every scene of real life and of 
the world, at once appear with higher significance ; 
all the more so, to be sure, in proportion as its 


melody is analogous to the inner spirit of the 
given phenomenon. It rests upon this that we 
are able to set a poem to music as a song, or a 
perceptible representation as a pantomime, or both 
as an opera. Such particular pictures of human 
life, set to the universal language of music, are 
never bound to it or correspond to it with 
stringent necessity, but stand to it only in the 
relation of anexample chosen at will to a general 
concept. Tn the deterrmnateness of the real 
they represent that which rqusic expresses in the 
universality of mere form. For melodies are to 
ascertain extent, like general concepts, an abstrac 
tion from the actual. This actual world, then, 
the world of particular things, affords the object 
of perception, the special and the individual, the 
particular case, both to the universality of con 
cepts and to the universality of the melodies. 
Hut these two universalities are in a certain respect 
opposed to each other ; for the concepts contain 
only the forms, which are first of all abstracted 
from perception, the separated outward shell of 
things, as it were, and hence they are, in the 
strictest sense of the term, abstracta ; music, on 
the other hand, gives the inmost kernel which 
precedes all forms, or the heart of things. This 
relation may be very well expressed in the 
language of the schoolmen, by saying : the con 
cepts are the universalia post rem, but music gives 
the universalia ante rem, and the real world the 
universalia in re. But that in general a relation 
is possible between a composition and a perceptible 
representation rests, as we have said, upon the 


fact that both are simply different expressions of 
the same inner being of the world. When now, 
in the particular case, such a relation is actually 
given, that is to say, when the composer has been 
able to express in the universal language of music 
the emotions of will which constitute the heart of 
an event, then the melody of the song, the music 
of the opera, is expressive. But the analogy 
discovered by the composer between the two must 
have proceeded from the direct knowledge of the 
nature of the world unknown to his reason, and 
must not be an imitation produced with conscious 
intention by means of conceptions ; otherwise the 
music does not express the inner nature of the 
will itself, but merely gives an inadequate imita 
tion of its phenomenon : all specially imitative 
music does this." 

We have therefore, according to the doctrine of 
Schopenhauer, an immediate understanding of 
music as the language of the will, and feel our 
imagination stimulated to give form to this 
invisible and yet so actively stirred spirit-world 
which speaks to us, and prompted to embody it 
in an analogous example. On the other hand, 
image and concept, under the influence of a truly 
conformable music, acquire a higher significance. 
])ionysian_ajr.t, therefore is. .wont to exercise two 
kinds of influences on the Apollonian art-faculty : 
music firstly incites to. the symbolic intuition of 
Dionysian. universality, and, secondly, it causes the 
symbolic image to stand forth in its fu//esfji^m^c-_ 
ance. From these facts, intelligiHTeTrTThemselves 
and not inaccessible to profounder observation, 


I infer the capacity of music to give birth to /? ///, 
that is to say, the most significant exemplar, and 
precisely, tragic myth : the myth which speaks of 
Dionysian knowledge in symbols. In the pheno 
menon of the lyrist, I have set forth that in him 
music strives to express itself with regard to its 
nature in Apollonian images. If now we reflect 
that music in its highest potency must seek to 
attain also to its highest symbolisation, we must 
deem it possible that it also knows how to find 
the symbolic expression of its inherent Dionysian 
wisdom ; and where shall we have to seek for this 
expression if not in tragedy and, in general, in the 
conception of the tragic ? 

Jrom thejiature of art, as it is ordinarily con 
ceived according to the single category of appear 
ance and beauty, the tragic cannot be honestly 
deduced at all; it is only through the spirit of 
music that we understand the joy in the annihila 
tion of the individual. For in the particular 
examples of such annihilation only is the eternal 
phenomenon of Dionysian art made clear to us, 
which gives expression. to the will in its omnipo 
tence, as it were, behind the prin dp ium individua- 
tionis, the eternal life beyond all phenomena, and 
in_ spite of all annihilation. The metaphysical 
delight in the tragic is a translation of the instinct 
ively unconscious Dionysian wisdom into the 
language of the scene : the hero, the highest 
manifestation of the will, is disavowed for our 
pleasure, because he is only phenomenon, and 
because the eternal life of the will is not affected 
by his annihilation. " We believe in eternal life," 


tragedy exclaims ; while music is the proximate 
idea of this life. Plastic art has an altogether 
different object : here Apollo vanquishes the 
suffering of the individual by the radiant glorifica 
tion of the eternity of the phenomenon ; here beauty 
triumphs over the suffering inherent in life ; pain 
is in a manner surreptitiously obliterated from the 
features of nature. In Dionysian art and its tragic 
symbolism the same nature speaks to us with its 
true undissembled voice : " Be as I am ! Amidst 
the ceaseless change of phenomena the eternally 
creative primordial mother, eternally impelling to 
existence, self-satisfying eternally with this change 
of phenomena ! " 

Dionysian art, too, seeks to convince us of the 
eternal joy of existence : only we are to seek this 
joy not in phenomena, but behind phenomena. 
We are to perceive how all that comes into being 
must be ready for a sorrowful end ; we are com 
pelled to look into the terrors of individual exist 
ence yet we are not to become torpid : a meta 
physical comfort tears us momentarily from the 
bustle of the transforming figures. We are really 
for brief moments Primordial Being itself, and feel 
its indomitable desire for being and joy in existence; 
the struggle, the pain, the destruction of phenomena, 
now appear to us as something necessary, consider 
ing the surplus of innumerable forms of existence 
which throng and push one another into life, con 
sidering the exuberant fertility of the universal 
will. We are pierced by the maddening sting of 


these pains at the very moment when we have 
become, as it were, one with the immeasurable 
primordial joy in existence, and when we antici 
pate, in Dionysian ecstasy, the indestructibility and 
eternity of this joy. In spite of fear and pity, we 
are the happy living beings, not as individuals, but 
as the one living being, with whose procreative joy 
we are blended. 

The history of the rise of Greek tragedy now 
tells us with luminous precision that the tragic art 
of the Greeks was really born of the spirit of music : 
with which conception we believe we have done 
justice for the first time to the original and most 
astonishing significance of the chorus. At the 
same time, however, we must admit that the im 
port of tragic myth as set forth above never 
became transparent with sufficient lucidity to the 
Greek poets, let alone the Greek philosophers ; 
their heroes speak, as it were, more superficially 
than they act ; the myth does not at all find its 
adequate objectification in the spoken word. The 
structure of the scenes and the conspicuous images 
reveal a deeper wisdom than the poet himself can 
put into words and concepts : the same being also 
observed in Shakespeare, whose Hamlet, for in 
stance, in an analogous manner talks more super 
ficially than he acts, so that the previously mentioned 
lesson of Hamlet is to be gathered not from his 
words, but from a more profound contemplation 
and survey of the whole. With respect to Greek 
tragedy, which of course presents itself to us only 
as word-drama, I have even intimated that the 
incongruence between myth and expression might 


easily tempt us to regard it as shallower and less 
significant than it really is, and accordingly to 
postulate for it a more superficial effect than it 
must have had according to the testimony of the 
ancients : for how easily one forgets that what 
the word-poet did not succeed in doing, namely 
realising the highest spiritualisation and ideality 
of myth, he might succeed in doing every moment 
as creative musician ! We require, to be sure, 
almost by philological method to reconstruct for 
ourselves the ascendency of musical influence in 
order to receive something of the incomrjarable 
comfort which must be characteristic of true 
tragedy. Even this musical ascendency, however, 
would only have been felt by us as such had we 
been Greeks : while in the entire development of 
Greek music as compared with the infinitely 
richer music known and familiar to us we imagine 
we hear only the youthful song of the musical 
genius intoned with a feeling of diffidence. The 
Greeks are, as the Egyptian priests say, eternal 
children, and in tragic art also they are only 
children who do not know what a sublime play 
thing has originated under their hands and is 
being demolished. 

That striving of the spirit of music for symbolic 
and mythical manifestation, which increases from 
the beginnings of lyric poetry to Attic tragedy, 
breaks off all of a sudden immediately after attain 
ing luxuriant development, and disappears, as it 
were, from the surface of Hellenic art : while the 
Dionysian view of things born of this striving lives 
on in Mysteries and, in its strangest metamorphoses 


and debasements, does not cease to attract earnest 
natures. Will it not one day rise again as art out 
of its mystic depth ? 

Here the question occupies us, whether the power 
by the counteracting influence of which tragedy 
perished, has for all time strength enough to pre 
vent the artistic reawaking of tragedy and of the 
tragic view of things. If ancient tragedy was 
driven from its course by the dialectical desire for 
knowledge and the optimism of science, it might 
be inferred that there is an eternal conflict between 
tJie theoretic and the tragic view of things, and only 
after the spirit of science has been led to its 
boundaries, and its claim to universal validity has 
been destroyed by the evidence of these boundaries, 
can we hope for a re-birth of tragedy : for which 
form of culture we should have to use the symbol 
of the music-practising Socrates in the sense spoken 
of above. In this contrast, I understand by the 
spirit of science the belief which first came to light 
in the person of Socrates, the belief in the fathom- 
ableness of nature and in knowledge as a panacea. 

He who recalls the immediate consequences of 
this restlessly onward-pressing spirit of science 
will realise at once that myth was annihilated by 
it, and that, in consequence of this annihilation, 
poetry was driven as a homeless being from her 
natural ideal soil. If we have rightly assigned to 
music the capacity to reproduce myth from itself, 
we may in turn expect to find the spirit of science on 
the path where it inimically opposes this mythopoeic 
power of music. This takes place in the develop 
ment of the New Attic Dithyramb, the music ol 


which no longer expressed the inner essence, the 
will itself, but only rendered the phenomenon in 
sufficiently, in an imitation by means of concepts ; 
from which intrinsically degenerate music the truly 
musical natures turned away with the same re 
pugnance that they felt for the art-destroying 
tendency of Socrates. The unerring instinct of 
Aristophanes surely did the proper thing when 
it comprised Socrates himself, the tragedy of 
Euripides, and the music of the new Dithyrambic 
poets in the same feeling of hatred, and perceived in 
all three phenomena the symptoms of a degenerate 
culture. By this New Dithyramb, music has in an 
outrageous manner been made the imitative portrait 
of phenomena, for instance, of a battle or a storm 
at sea, and has thus, of course, been entirely 
deprived of its mythopoeic power. For if it 
endeavours to excite our delight only by com 
pelling us to seek external analogies between a 
vital or natural process and certain rhythmical 
figures and characteristic sounds of music ; if our 
understanding is expected to satisfy itself with 
the perception of these analogies, we are reduced 
to a frame of mind in which the reception of the 
mythical is impossible; for the myth as a -unique 
exemplar of generality and truth towering_intp 
the infinite, desires to be conspicuously perceived. 
The truly Dionysian music presents itself to us as 
such a general mirror of the universal will: the 
conspicuous event which is refracted in this mirror 
expands at once for our consciousness to the copy 
of an eternal truth. Conversely, such a con- 
spicious event is at once divested of every mythical 


character by the tone-painting of the New 
Dithyramb ; music has here become a wretched 
copy of the phenomenon, and therefore infinitely 
poorer than the phenomenon itself : through which 
poverty it still further reduces even the phenomenon 
for our consciousness, so that now, for instance, 
a musically imitated battle of this sort exhausts 
itself in inarches, signal-sounds, etc., and our 
imagination is arrested precisely by these super 
ficialities. Tone-painting is therefore in every 
respect the counterpart of true music with its 
mythopoeic power : through it the phenomenon, 
poor in itself, is made still poorer, while through 
an isolated Dionysian music the phenomenon is 
evolved and expanded into a picture of the world. 
It was an immense triumph of the non-Dionysian 
spirit, when, in the development of the New 
Dithyramb, it had estranged music from itself and 
reduced it to be the slave of phenomena. Euripides, 
who, albeit in a higher sense, must be designated 
as a thoroughly unmusical nature, is for this very 
reason a passionate adherent of the New Dithy- 
rambic Music, and with the liberality of a freebooter 
employs all its effective turns and mannerisms. 

In another direction also we see at work the 
power of this un-Dionysian, myth-opposing spirit, 
when we turn our eyes to the prevalence of 
character representation and psychological refine 
ment from Sophocles onwards. The character 
must no longer be expanded into an eternal type, 
but, on the contrary, must operate individually 
through artistic by-traits and shadings, through 
the nicest precision of all lines, in such a manner 


that the spectator is in general no longer conscious 
of the myth, but of the mighty nature-myth and 
the imitative power of the artist. Here also we 
observe the victory of the phenomenon over the 
Universal, and the delight in the particular quasi- 
anatomical preparation ; we actually breathe the 
air of a theoretical world, in which scientific 
knowledge is valued more highly than the artistic 
reflection of a universal law. The movement 
along the line of the representation of character 
proceeds rapidly : while Sophocles still delineates 
complete characters and employs myth for their 
refined development, Euripides already delineates 
only prominent individual traits of character, which 
can express themselves in violent bursts of passion ; 
in the New Attic Comedy, however, there are only 
masks with one expression : frivolous old men, 
duped panders, and cunning slaves in untiring re 
petition. Where now is the mythopoeic spirit of 
music ? What is still left now of music is either 
excitatory music or souvenir music, that is, either 
a stimulant for dull and used-up nerves, or tone- 
painting. As regards the former, it hardly matters 
about the text set to it : the heroes and choruses 
of Euripides are already dissolute enough when 
once they begin to sing ; to what pass must things 
have come with his brazen successors? 

The new un-Dionysian spirit, however, manifests 
itself most clearly in the denouements of the new 
dramas. In the Old Tragedy one could feel at the 
close the metaphysical comfort, without which the 
delight in tragedy cannot be explained at all ; the 
conciliating tones from another world sound purest, 


perhaps, in the CEdipus at Colonus. Now that the 
genius of music has fled from tragedy, tragedy is, 
strictly speaking, dead : for from whence could one 
now draw the metaphysical comfort ? One sought, 
therefore, for an earthly unravelment of the tragic 
dissonance ; the hero, after he had been sufficiently 
tortured by fate, reaped a well-deserved reward 
through a superb marriage or divine tokens of 
favour. The hero had turned gladiator, on whom, 
after being liberally battered about and covered 
with wounds, freedom was occasionally bestowed. 
The deus ex machina took the place of metaphysical 
comfort. I will not say that the tragic view of 
things was everywhere completely destroyed by the 
intruding spirit of the un-Dionysian : we only know 
that it was compelled to flee from art into the 
under-world as it were, in the degenerate form of a 
secret cult. Over the widest extent of the Hellenic 
character, however, there raged the consuming 
blast of this spirit, which manifests itself in the form 
of "Greek cheerfulness," which we have already 
spoken of as a senile, unproductive love of exist 
ence ; this cheerfulness is the counterpart of the 
splendid " nalvet^ " of the earlier Greeks, which, ac 
cording to the characteristic indicated above, must be 
conceived as the blossom of the Apollonian culture 
growing out of a dark abyss, as the victory which 
the Hellenic will, through its mirroring of beauty, 
obtains over suffering and the wisdom of suffering. 
The noblest manifestation of that other form of 
" Greek cheerfulness," the Alexandrine, is the cheer 
fulness of the theoretical man : it exhibits the same 
symptomatic characteristics as I have just inferred 


concerning the spirit of the un-Dionysian : it com 
bats Dionysian wisdom and art, it seeks to dissolve 
myth, it substitutes for metaphysical comfort an 
earthly consonance, in fact, a deus ex machina of its 
own, namely the god of machines and crucibles, 
that is, the powers of the genii of nature recognised 
and employed in the service of higher egoism ; it 
believes in amending the world by knowledge, in 
guiding life by science, and that it can really con 
fine the individual within a narrow sphere of solv 
able problems, where he cheerfully says to life : " I 
desire thee : it is worth while to know thee." 

1 8. 

It is an eternal phenomenon : the avidious will 
can always, by means of an illusion spread over 
things, detain its creatures in life and compel them 
to live on. One is chained by the Socratic love of 
knowledge and the vain hope of being able thereby 
to heal the eternal wound of existence ; another is 
ensnared by art s seductive veil of beauty fluttering 
before his eyes ; still another by the metaphysical 
comfort that eternal life flows on indestructibly 
beneath the whirl of phenomena : to say nothing 
of the more ordinary and almost more powerful 
illusions which the will has always at hand. These 
three specimens of illusion are on the whole designed 
only for the more nobly endowed natures, who in 
general feel profoundly the weight and burden of 
existence, and must be deluded into forgetfulness 
of their displeasure by exquisite stimulants. All 
that we call culture is made up of these stimulants ; 


and, according to the proportion of the ingredients, 
we have either a specially Socratic or jr// j// or 
/ ,-^.v culture : or, i. . ist< ri< al exem] lifii ati< ns are 
wanted, there is either an Alexandrine or a Hel 
lenic or a ftuddhistic culture. 

Our whole modern world is entangled in the ~\ 
meshes of Alexandrine culture, and recognises as 
its ideal the theorist equipped with the most potent 
means of knowledge, and labouring in the service 
of science, of whom the archetype and progenitor 
is Socrates. All our educational methods have 
originally this ideal in view : every other form 
of existence must struggle onwards wearisomely 
beside it, as something tolerated, but not intended. 
In an almost alarming manner the cultured maff 
was here found for a long time only in the form of 
the scholar : even our poetical arts have been forced 
to evolve from learned imitations, and in the main 
effect of the rhyme we still recognise the origin of 
our poetic form from artistic experiments with a 
non-native and thoroughly learned language. How 
unintelligible must Faust, the modern cultured man, 
who is in himself intelligible, have appeared to a true 
Greek, ajjsU>storming discontentedly through all 
the faculties, devoted to magic and the devil from a 
desire for knowledge, whom we have only to place 
alongside of Socrates for the purpose of comparison, 
in order to see that modern man begins to divine 
the boundaries of this Socratic love of perception 
and longs for a coast in the wide waste of the ocean 
of knowledge. When Goethe on one occasion said 
to Eckcrmann with reference to Napoleon : " Yes, 
my good friend, there is also a productiveness of 


deeds," he reminded us in a charmingly naive 
manner that the non-theorist is something incred 
ible and astounding to modern man ; so that the 
wisdom of Goethe is needed once more in order to 
discover that such a surprising form of existence is 
comprehensible, nay even pardonable. 

Now, we must not hide from ourselves what is 
concealed in the heart of this Socratic culture : Op 
timism, deeming itself absolute ! Well, we must not 
be alarmed if the fruits of this optimism ripen, 
if society, leavened to the very lowest strata by this 
kind of culture, gradually begins to tremble through 
wanton agitations and desires, if the belief in the 
earthly happiness of all, if the belief in the possi 
bility of such a general intellectual culture is gradu 
ally transformed into the threatening demand for 
such an Alexandrine earthly happiness, into the 
conjuring of a Euripidean deus ex machina. Let 
us mark this well : the Alexandrine culture requires 
a slave class, to be able to exist permanently : but, 
in its optimistic view of life, it denies the necessity 
of such a class, and consequently, when the effect 
of its beautifully seductive and tranquillising utter 
ances about the " dignity of man " and the " dignity 
of labour " is spent, it gradually drifts towards a 
dreadful destination. There is nothing more terrible 
than a barbaric slave class, who have learned to 
regard their existence as an injustice, and now pre 
pare to take vengeance, not only for themselves, but 
for all generations. In the face of such threaten 
ing storms, who dares to appeal with confident 
spirit to our pale and exhausted religions, which 
even in their foundations have degenerated into 


scholastic religions ? so that myth, the necessary 
prerequisite of every religion, is already paralysed 
everywhere, and even in this domain the optimistic 
spirit which we have just designated as the anni 
hilating germ of society has attained the mastery. 
While the evil slumbering in the heart of theor 
etical culture gradually begins to disquiet modern 
man, and makes him anxiously ransack the stores 
of his experience for means to avert the danger, 
though not believing very much in these means ; 
while he, therefore, begins to divine the conse 
quences his position involves : great, universally 
gifted natures have contrived, with an incredible 
amount of thought, to make use of the apparatus 
of science itself, in order to point out the limits 
and the relativity of knowledge generally, and thus 
definitely to deny the claim of science to universal 
validity and universal ends : with which demon 
stration the illusory notion was for the first time 
recognised as such, which pretends, with the aid 
of causality, to be able to fathom the innermost 
essence of things. The extraordinary courage 
and wisdom of Kant and ScJiopenhaiur have suc 
ceeded in gaining the most difficult victory, the 
victory over the optimism hidden in the essence 
of logic, which optimism in turn is the basis of our 
culture. While this optimism, resting on apparently 
unobjectionable aternce vcritates, believed in the 
intelligibility and solvability of all the riddles of 
the world, and treated space, time, and causality 
as totally unconditioned laws of the most universal 
validity, Kant, on the other hand, showed that 
these served in reality only to elevate the mere 


phenomenon, the work of Maya, to the sole and 
highest reality, putting it in place of the inner 
most and true essence of things, thus making the 
actual knowledge of this essence impossible, that 
is, according to the expression of Schopenhauer, 
to lull the dreamer still more soundly asleep ( Welt 
als Wille und Vorstellung, I. 498). With this 
knowledge a culture is inaugurated which I venture 
to designate as a tragic culture ; the most import 
ant characteristic of which is that wisdom takes 
the place of science as the highest end, wisdom, 
which, uninfluenced by the seductive distractions 
of the sciences, turns with unmoved eye to the 
comprehensive view of the world, and seeks to 
apprehend therein the eternal suffering as its own 
with sympathetic feelings of love. Let us imagine 
a rising generation with this undauntedness of 
vision, with this heroic desire for the prodigious, 
let us imagine the bold step of these dragon- 
slayers, the proud and daring spirit with which 
they turn their backs on all the effeminate doctrines 
of optimism in order " to live resolutely " in the 
Whole and in the Full : would it not be necessary 
for the tragic man of this culture, with his self- 
discipline to earnestness and terror, to desire a 
new art, the art of metaphysical comfort, namely, 
tragedy, as the Hellena belonging to him, and that 
he should exclaim with Faust : 

Und sollt ich nicht, sehnsuchtigster Gewalt, 
In s Leben ziehn die einzigste Gestalt ? * 

*Cf. Introduction, p. 14. 


But now that the Socratic culture has been 
shaken from two directions, and is only able to 
hold the sceptre of its infallibility with trembling 
hands, once by the fear of its own conclusions 
which it at length begins to surmise, and again, 
because it is no longer convinced with its former 
naive trust of the eternal validity of its foundation, 
it is a sad spectacle to behold how the dance of 
its thought always rushes longingly on new forms, 
to embrace them, and then, shuddering, lets them 
go of a sudden, as Mephistopheles does the seduc 
tive Lamiae. It is certainly the symptom of the 
" breach " which all are wont to speak of as the 
primordial suffering of modern culture that the 
theoretical man, alarmed and dissatisfied at his 
own conclusions, no longer dares to entrust him 
self to the terrible ice-stream of existence : he runs 
timidly up and down the bank. He no longer 
wants to have anything entire, with all the natural 
cruelty of things, so thoroughly has he been 
spoiled by his optimistic contemplation. Besides, 
he feels that a culture built up on the principles 
of science must perish when it begins to grow 
illogical, that is, to avoid its own conclusions. 
Our art reveals this universal trouble : in vain does 
one seek help by imitating all the great productive 
periods and natures, in vain does one accumulate 
the entire " world-literature " around modern man 
for his comfort, in vain does one place one s self in 
the midst of the art-styles and artists of all ages, 
so that one may give names to them as Adam 
did to the beasts : one still continues the eternal 
hungerer, the " critic " without joy and energy, the 


Alexandrine man, who is in the main a librarian 
and corrector of proofs, and who, pitiable wretch 
goes blind from the dust of books and printers 


We cannot designate the intrinsic substance of 
Socratic culture more distinctly than by calling it 
the culture of the opera : for it is in this depart 
ment that culture has expressed itself with special 
naivete" concerning its aims and perceptions, 
which is sufficiently surprising when we compare 
the genesis of the opera and the facts of operatic 
development with the eternal truths of the 
Apollonian and Dionysian. I call to mind first 
of all the origin of the stilo rappresentativo and 
the recitative. Is it credible that this thoroughly 
externalised operatic music, incapable of devotion, 
could be received and cherished with enthusiastic 
favour, as a re-birth, as it were, of all true music, 
by the very age in which the ineffably sublime 
and sacred music of Palestrina had originated ? 
And who, on the other hand, would think of 
making only the diversion -craving luxuriousness 
of those Florentine circles and the vanity of their 
dramatic singers responsible for the love of the 
opera which spread with such rapidity ? That in 
the same age, even among the same people, thir, 
passion for a half-musical mode of speech should 
awaken alongside of the vaulted structure of 
Palestrine harmonies which the entire Christian 
Middle Age had been building up, I can explain 


to myself only by a co-operating extra-artistic 
tendency in the essence of the recitative. 

The listener, who insists on distinctly hearing 
the words under the music, has his wishes met by 
the singer in that he speaks rather than sings, 
and intensifies the pathetic expression of the 
words in this half-song : by this intensification of 
the pathos he facilitates the understanding of the 
words and surmounts the remaining half of the 
music. The specific danger which now threatens 
him is that in some unguarded moment he may 
give undue importance to music, which would 
forthwith result in the destruction of the pathos 
of the speech and the distinctness of the words : 
while, on the other hand, he always feels himself 
impelled to musical delivery and to virtuose 
exhibition of vocal talent. Here the " poet " 
comes to his aid, who knows how to provide him 
with abundant opportunities for lyrical inter 
jections, repetitions of words and sentences, etc., 
at which places the singer, now in the purely 
musical element, can rest himself without mind 
ing the words. This alternation of emotionally 
impressive, yet only half-sung speech and wholly 
sung interjections, which is characteristic of the 
stilo rappresentativo, this rapidly changing en 
deavour to operate now on the conceptional and 
representative faculty of the hearer, now on his 
musical sense, is something so thoroughly un 
natural and withal so intrinsically contradictory 
both to the Apollonian and Dionysian artistic 
impulses, that one has to infer an origin of the 
recitative foreign to all artistic instincts. The 


recitative must be defined, according to this 
description, as the combination of epic and lyric 
delivery, not indeed as an intrinsically stable 
combination which could not be attained in the 
case of such totally disparate elements, but an 
entirely superficial mosaic conglutination, such as 
is totally unprecedented in the domain of nature 
and experience. But this was not the opinion of 
the inventors of the recitative: they themselves, and 
their age with them, believed rather that the 
mystery of antique music had been solved by 
this stilo rappresentativo, in which, as they thought, 
the only explanation of the enormous influence of 
an Orpheus, an Amphion, and even of Greek 
tragedy was to be found. The new style was 
regarded by them as the re-awakening of the 
most effective music, the Old Greek music : 
indeed, with the universal and popular conception 
of the Homeric world as the primitive world, they 
could abandon themselves to the dream of having 
descended once more into the paradisiac beginnings 
of mankind, wherein music also must needs have 
had the unsurpassed purity, power, and innocence 
of which the poets could give such touching 
accounts in their pastoral plays. Here we see 
into the internal process of development of this 
thoroughly modern variety of art, the opera: a 
powerful need here acquires an art, but it is a 
need of an unaesthetic kind : the yearning for the 
idyll, the belief in the prehistoric existence of the 
artistic, good man. The recitative was regarded 
as the rediscovered language of this primitive 
man ; the opera as the recovered land of this 


tdyllically or heroically good creature, who in 
every action follows at the same time a natural 
artistic impulse, who sings a little along with all 
he has to say, in order to sing immediately with 
full voice on the slightest emotional excitement. 
It is now a matter of indifference to us that 
the humanists of those days combated the old 
ecclesiastical representation of man as naturally 
corrupt and lost, with this new-created picture of 
the paradisiac artist : so that opera may be under 
stood as the oppositional dogma of the good man, 
whereby however a solace was at the same time 
found for the pessimism to which precisely the 
seriously-disposed men of that time were most 
strongly incited, owing to the frightful uncertainty 
of all conditions of life. It is enough to have 
perceived that the intrinsic charm, and therefore 
the genesis, of this new form of art lies in the 
gratification of an altogether unxsthetic need, in 
the optimistic glorification of man as such, in the 
conception of the primitive man as the man 
naturally good and artistic : a principle of the 
opera which has gradually changed into a 
threatening and terrible demand, which, in face of 
the socialistic movements of the present time, we 
can no longer ignore. The " good primitive man " 
wants his rights : what paradisiac prospects ! 

I here place by way of parallel still another 
equally obvious confirmation of my view that 
opera is built up on the same principles as our 
Alexandrine culture. Opera is the birth of the 
theoretical man, of the critical layman, not of the 
artist : one of the most surprising facts in the 


whole history of art. It was the demand of 
thoroughly unmusical hearers that the words must 
above all be understood, so that according to 
them a re-birth of music is only to be expected 
when some mode of singing has been discovered 
in which the text-word lords over the counter 
point as the master over the servant. For the 
words, it is argued, are as much nobler than the 
accompanying harmonic system as the soul is 
nobler than the body. It was in accordance with 
the laically unmusical crudeness of these views that 
the combination of music, picture and expression 
was effected in the beginnings of the opera : in the 
spirit of this aesthetics the first experiments were 
also made in the leading laic circles of Florence 
by the poets and singers patronised there. The 
man incapable of art creates for himself a species 
of art precisely because he is the inartistic man as 
such. Because he does not divine the Dionysian 
depth of music, he changes his musical taste into 
appreciation of the understandable word-and-tone- 
rhetoric of the passions in the stilo rappresentativo^ 
and into the voluptuousness of the arts of song ; 
because he is unable to behold a vision, he forces 
the machinist and the decorative artist into his 
service; because he cannot apprehend the true 
nature of the artist, he conjures up the " artistic 
primitive man " to suit his taste, that is, the man 
who sings and recites verses under the influence 
of passion. He dreams himself into a time when 
passion suffices to generate songs and poems : as 
if emotion had ever been able to create anything 
artistic. The postulate of the opera is a false 


belief concerning the artistic process, in fact, the 
idyllic belief that every sentient man is an artist. 
In the sense of this belief, opera is the expression 
of the taste of the laity in art, who dictate their 
laws with the cheerful optimism of the theorist. 

Should we desire to unite in one the two con 
ceptions just set forth as influential in the origin 
of opera, it would only remain for us to speak of 
an idyllic tendency of the opera : in which connec 
tion we may avail ourselves exclusively of the 
phraseology and illustration of Schiller.* " Nature 
and the ideal," he says, " are either objects of grief, 
when the former is represented as lost, the latter 
unattained ; or both are objects of joy, in that they 
are represented as real. The first case furnishes 
the elegy in its narrower signification, the second 
the idyll in its widest sense." Here we must at once 
call attention to the common characteristic of these 
two conceptions in operatic genesis, namely, that 
in them the ideal is not regarded as unattained or 
nature as lost. Agreeably to this sentiment, there 
was a primitive age of man when he lay close to 
the heart of nature, and, owing to this naturalness, 
had attained the ideal of mankind in a paradisiac 
goodness and artist-organisation : from which 
perfect primitive man all of us were supposed to 
be descended ; whose faithful copy we were in fact 
still said to be : only we had to cast off some few 
things in order to recognise ourselves once more 
as this primitive man, on the strength of a voluntary 
renunciation of superfluous learncdness, of super- 

* Essay on Elegiac Poetry. Tk. 


abundant culture. It was to such a concord of 
nature and the ideal, to an idyllic reality, that the 
cultured man of the Renaissance suffered himself 
to be led back by his operatic imitation of Greek 
tragedy ; he made use of this tragedy, as Dante 
made use of Vergil, in order to be led up to the 
gates of paradise : while from this point he went 
on without assistance and passed over from an 
imitation of the highest form of Greek art to a 
" restoration of all things," to an imitation of man s 
original art-world. What delightfully naive hope 
fulness of these daring endeavours, in the very 
heart of theoretical culture ! solely to be ex 
plained by the comforting belief, that " man-in- 
himself " is the eternally virtuous hero of the opera, 
the eternally fluting or singing shepherd, who must 
always in the end rediscover himself as such, if he 
has at any time really lost himself; solely the fruit 
of the optimism, which here rises like a sweetishly 
seductive column of vapour out of the depth of the 
Socratic conception of the world. 

The features of the opera therefore do not by any 
means exhibit the elegiac sorrow of an eternal loss, 
but rather the cheerfulness of eternal rediscovery, 
the indolent delight in an idyllic reality which one 
can at least represent to one s self each moment 
as real : and in so doing one will perhaps surmise 
some day that this supposed reality is nothing but 
a fantastically silly dawdling, concerning which 
every one, who could judge it by the terrible earnest 
ness of true nature and compare it with the actual 
primitive scenes of the beginnings of mankind, 
would have to call out with loathing : Away with 


the phantom ! Nevertheless one would err if one 
thought it possible to frighten away merely by a 
vigorous shout such a dawdling thing as the opera, 
as if it were a spectre. He who would destroy 
the opera must join issue with Alexandrine cheer 
fulness, which expresses itself so naYvely therein 
concerning its favourite representation ; of which 
in fact it is the specific form of art. But what is 
to be expected for art itself from the operation of 
a form of art, the beginnings of which do not at 
all lie in the aesthetic province ; which has rather 
stolen over from a half-moral sphere into the 
artistic domain, and has been able only now and 
then to delude us concerning this hybrid origin ? 
By what sap is this parasitic opera-concern 
nourished, if not by that of true art ? Must we 
not suppose that the highest and indeed the truly 
serious task of art to free the eye from its glance 
into the horrors of night and to deliver the 
11 subject " by the healing balm of appearance 
from the spasms of volitional agitations will 
degenerate under the influence of its idyllic seduc 
tions and Alexandrine adulation to an empty 
dissipating tendency, to pastime? What will 
become of the eternal truths of the Dionysian 
and Apollonian in such an amalgamation of styles 
as I have exhibited in the character of the stilo 
rappresentativo ? where music is regarded as the 
servant, the text as the master, where music is com 
pared with the body, the text with the soul ? 
where at best the highest aim will be the realisa 
tion of a paraphrastic tone-painting, just as formerly 
iu the New Attic Dithyramb ? where music is com- 


pletely alienated from its true dignity of being, the 
Dionysian mirror of the world, so that the only 
thing left to it is, as a slave of phenomena, to imitate 
the formal character thereof, and to excite an ex 
ternal pleasure in the play of lines and proportions. 
On close observation, this fatal influence of the 
opera on music is seen to coincide absolutely with 
the universal development of modern music ; the 
optimism lurking in the genesis of the opera and 
in the essence of culture represented thereby, has, 
with alarming rapidity, succeeded in divesting 
music of its Dionyso-cosmic mission and in im 
pressing on it a playfully formal and pleasurable 
character : a change with which perhaps only the 
metamorphosis of the ^Eschylean man into the 
cheerful Alexandrine man could be compared. 

If, however, in the exemplification herewith in 
dicated we have rightly associated the evanescence 
of the Dionysian spirit with a most striking, but 
hitherto unexplained transformation and degener 
ation of the Hellene what hopes must revive in 
us when the most trustworthy auspices guarantee 
the reverse process^ the gradual awakening of the 
Dionysian spirit in our modern world ! It is im 
possible for the divine strength of Herakles to lan 
guish for ever in voluptuous bondage to Omphale. 
Out of the Dionysian root of the German spirit 
a power has arisen which has nothing in common 
with the primitive conditions of Socratic culture, 
and can neither be explained nor excused thereby, 
but is rather regarded by this culture as something 
terribly inexplicable and overwhelmingly hostile, 
namely, German music as we have to understand 


it, especially in its vast solar orbit from Bach to 
Beethoven, from Beethoven to Wagner. What 
even under the most favourable circumstances can 
the knowledge-craving Socratism of our days do 
with this demon rising from unfathomable depths ? 
Neither by means of the zig-zag and arabesque 
work of operatic melody, nor with the aid of the 
arithmetical counting board of fugue and contra 
puntal dialectics is the formula to be found, in the 
trebly powerful light * of which one could subdue 
this demon and compel it to speak. What a 
spectacle, when our aesthetes, with a net of 
" beauty " peculiar to themselves, now pursue and 
clutch at the genius of music romping about before 
them with incomprehensible life, and in so doing 
display activities which are not to be judged by 
the standard of eternal beauty any more than by 
the standard of the sublime. Let us but observe 
these patrons of music as they are, at close range, 
when they call out so indefatigably "beauty! 
beauty ! " to discover whether they have the 
marks of nature s darling children who are fostered 
and fondled in the lap of the beautiful, or whether 
they do not rather seek a disguise for their own 
rudeness, an aesthetical pretext for their own 
unemotional insipidity : I am thinking here, for 
instance, of Otto Jahn. But let the liar and the 
hypocrite beware of our German music : for in 
the midst of all our culture it is really the only 
genuine, pure and purifying fire-spirit from which 
and towards which, as in the teaching of the great 

* See Faust, Part I. 1. 965 TR. 


Heraclitus of Ephesus, all things move in a double 
orbit all that we now call culture, education, 
civilisation, must appear some day before the 
unerring judge, Dionysus. 

Let us recollect furthermore how Kant and 
Schopenhauer made it possible for the spirit of 
German philosophy streaming from the same 
sources to annihilate the satisfied delight in ex 
istence of scientific Socratism by the delimitation 
of the boundaries thereof; how through this 
delimitation an infinitely profounder and more 
serious view of ethical problems and of art was 
inaugurated, which we may unhesitatingly desig 
nate as Dionysian wisdom comprised in concepts. 
To what then does the mystery of this oneness of 
German music and philosophy point, if not to a 
new form of existence, concerning the substance 
of which we can only inform ourselves presen- 
tiently from Hellenic analogies ? For to us who 
stand on the boundary line between two different 
forms of existence, the Hellenic prototype retains 
the immeasurable value, that therein all these 
transitions and struggles are imprinted in a 
classically instructive form : except that we, as it 
were, experience analogically in reverse order the 
chief epochs of the Hellenic genius, and seem now, 
for instance, to pass backwards from the Alex 
andrine age to the period of tragedy. At the 
same time we have the feeling that the birth of a 
tragic age betokens only a return to itself of the 
German spirit, a blessed self-rediscovering after 
excessive and urgent external influences have for 
a long time compelled it, living as it did in 


helpless barbaric formlessness, to servitude under 
their form. It may at last, after returning to the 
primitive source of its being, venture to stalk 
along boldly and freely before all nations without 
hugging the leading-strings of a Romanic civilisa 
tion : if only it can learn implicitly of one people 
the Greeks, of whom to learn at all is itself a 
high honour and a rare distinction. And when 
did we require these highest of all teachers more 
than at present, when we experience a re-birth of 
tragedy and are in danger alike of not knowing 
whence it comes, and of being unable to make 
clear to ourselves whither it tends. 


It may be weighed some day before an 
impartial judge, in what time and in what men 
the German spirit has thus far striven most reso 
lutely to learn of the Greeks : and if we con 
fidently assume that this unique praise must 
be accorded to the noblest intellectual efforts of 
Goethe, Schiller, and Winkelmann, it will cer 
tainly have to be added that since their time, and 
subsequently to the more immediate influences of 
these efforts, the endeavour to attain to culture 
and to the Greeks by this path has in an in 
comprehensible manner grown feebler and feebler. 
In order not to despair altogether of the German 
spirit, must we not infer therefrom that possibly, 
in some essential matter, even these champions 
could not penetrate into the core of the Hellenic 
nature, and were unable to establish a permanent 


friendly alliance between German and Greek cul 
ture ? So that perhaps an unconscious perception 
of this shortcoming might raise also in more 
serious minds the disheartening doubt as to 
whether after such predecessors they could ad 
vance still farther on this path of culture, or could 
reach the goal at all. Accordingly, we see the 
opinions concerning the value of Greek contribu 
tion to culture degenerate since that time in the 
most alarming manner; the expression of com 
passionate superiority may be heard in the most 
heterogeneous intellectual and non - intellectual 
camps, and elsewhere a totally ineffective declama 
tion dallies with "Greek harmony," " Greek beauty," 
" Greek cheerfulness." And in the very circles 
whose dignity it might be to draw indefatigably 
from the Greek channel for the good of German 
culture, in the circles of the teachers in the higher 
educational institutions, they have learned best to 
compromise with the Greeks in good time and 
on easy terms, to the extent often of a sceptical 
abandonment of the Hellenic ideal and a total 
perversion of the true purpose of antiquarian 
studies. If there be any one at all in these 
circles who has not completely exhausted himself 
in the endeavour to be a trustworthy corrector of 
old texts or a natural-history microscopist of 
language, he perhaps seeks also to appropriate 
Grecian antiquity " historically " along with other 
antiquities, and in any case according to the 
method and with the supercilious air of our 
present cultured historiography. When, therefore, 
the intrinsic efficiency of the higher educational 


institutions has never perhaps been lower or 
feebler than at present, when the " journalist," the 
paper slave of the day, has triumphed over the 
academic teacher in all matters pertaining to 
culture, and there only remains to the latter the 
often previously experienced metamorphosis of 
now fluttering also, as a cheerful cultured butterfly, 
in the idiom of the journalist, with the " light 
elegance" peculiar thereto with what painful 
confusion must the cultured persons of a period 
like the present gaze at the phenomenon (which 
can perhaps be comprehended analogically only 
by means of the profoundest principle of the 
hitherto unintelligible Hellenic genius) of the 
reawakening of the Dionysian spirit and the 
re-birth of tragedy ? Never has there been 
another art-period in which so-called culture and 
true art have been so estranged and opposed, as 
is so obviously the case at present. We under 
stand why so feeble a culture hates true art ; it 
fears destruction thereby. Hut must not an 
entire domain of culture, namely the Socratic- 
Alexandrine, have exhausted its powers after 
contriving to culminate in such a daintily-tapering 
point as our present culture ? When it was not 
permitted to heroes like Goethe and Schiller to 
break open the enchanted gate which leads into 
the Hellenic magic mountain, when with their 
most dauntless striving they did not get beyond 
the longing gaze which the Gocthcan Iphigenia 
cast from barbaric Tauris to her home across the 
ocean, what could the epigones of such heroes 
hope for, if the gate should not open to them 


suddenly of its own accord, in an entirely differ 
ent position, quite overlooked in all endeavours of 
culture hitherto amidst the mystic tones of 
reawakened tragic music. 

Let no one attempt to weaken our faith in an 
impending re-birth of Hellenic antiquity ; for in it 
alone we find our hope of a renovation and puri 
fication of the German spirit through the fire- 
magic of music. What else do we know of 
amidst the present desolation and languor of 
culture, which could awaken any comforting ex 
pectation for the future ? We look in vain for 
one single vigorously-branching root, for a speck 
of fertile and healthy soil : there is dust, sand, 
torpidness and languishing everywhere ! Under 
such circumstances a cheerless solitary wanderer 
could choose for himself no better symbol than 
the Knight with Death and the Devil, as Durer 
has sketched him for us, the mail-clad knight, 
grim and stern of visage, who is able, unperturbed 
by his gruesome companions, and yet hopelessly, 
to pursue his terrible path with horse and hound 
alone. Our Schopenhauer was such a Durerian 
knight : he was destitute of all hope, but he sought 
the truth. There is not his equal. 

But how suddenly this gloomily depicted wilder 
ness of our exhausted culture changes when the 
Dionysian magic touches it ! A hurricane seizes 
everything decrepit, decaying, collapsed, and 
stunted ; wraps it whirlingly into a red cloud of 
dust ; and carries it like a vulture into the air. 
Confused thereby, our glances seek for what has 
vanished : for what they see is something risen to 


the golden light as from a depression, so full and 
green, so luxuriantly alive, so ardently infinite. 
Tragedy sits in the midst of this exuberance of 
life, sorrow and joy, in sublime ecstasy ; she listens 
to a distant doleful song it tells of the Mothers 
of Being, whose names are : Wa/m, Wille, Wehe* 
Yes, my friends, believe with me in Dionysian 
life and in the re-birth of tragedy. The time of 
the Socratic man is past : crown yourselves with 
ivy, take in your hands the thyrsus, and do not 
marvel if tigers and panthers lie down fawning 
at your feet. Dare now to be tragic men, for 
ye are to be redeemed ! Ye are to accompany 
the Dionysian festive procession from India to 
Greece ! Equip yourselves for severe conflict, but 
believe in the wonders of your god ! 


Gliding back from these hortative tones into 
the mood which befits the contemplative man, I 
repeat that it can only be learnt from the Greeks 
what such a sudden and miraculous awakening of 
tragedy must signify for the essential basis of a 
people s life. It is the people of the tragic 
mysteries who fight the battles with the Persians : 
and again, the people who waged such wars 
required tragedy as a necessary healing potion. 
Who would have imagined that there was still 
such a uniformly powerful effusion of the simplest 
political sentiments, the most natural domestic 

Whim, will, woe. 


instincts and the primitive manly delight in strife 
in this very people after it had been shaken to its 
foundations for several generations by the most 
violent convulsions of the Dionysian demon ? If 
at every considerable spreading of the Dionysian 
commotion one always perceives that the Dionys 
ian loosing from the shackles of the individual 
makes itself felt first of all in an increased en 
croachment on the political instincts, to the 
extent of indifference, yea even hostility, it is 
certain, on the other hand, that the state-forming 
Apollo is also the genius of the principium in- 
dividuationis, and that the state and domestic 
sentiment cannot live without an assertion of 
individual personality. There is only one way 
from orgasm for a people, the way to Indian 
Buddhism, which, in order to be at all endured 
with its longing for nothingness, requires the rare 
ecstatic states with their elevation above space, 
time, and the individual ; just as these in turn 
demand a philosophy which teaches how to over 
come the indescribable depression of the inter 
mediate states by means of a fancy. With the 
same necessity, owing to the unconditional 
dominance of political impulses, a people drifts 
into a path of extremest secularisation, the most 
magnificent, but also the most terrible expression 
of which is the Roman imperium. 

Placed between India and Rome, and con 
strained to a seductive choice, the Greeks suc 
ceeded in devising in classical purity still a third 
form of life, not indeed for long private use, but 
just on that account for immortality. For it 


holds true in all things that those whom the gods 
love die young, but, on the other hand, it holds 
equally true that they then live eternally with the 
gods. One must not demand of what is most 
noble that it should possess the durable toughness 
of leather; the staunch durability, which, for 
instance, was inherent in the national character 
of the Romans, does not probably belong to the 
indispensable predicates of perfection. But if we 
ask by what physic it was possible for the Greeks, 
in their best period, notwithstanding the extra 
ordinary strength of their Dionysian and political 
impulses, neither to exhaust themselves by ecstatic 
brooding, nor by a consuming scramble for empire 
and worldly honour, but to attain the splendid 
mixture which we find in a noble, inflaming, and 
contemplatively disposing wine, we must remember 
the enormous power of tragedy, exciting, purifying, 
and disburdening the entire life of a people ; the 
highest value of which we shall divine only when, 
as in the case of the Greeks, it appears to us as 
the essence of all the prophylactic healing forces, 
as the mediator arbitrating between the strongest 
and most inherently fateful characteristics of a 

Tragedy absorbs the highest musical orgasm 
into itself, so that it absolutely brings music to 
perfection among the Greeks, as among ourselves ; 
but it then places alongside thereof tragic myth 
and the tragic hero, who, like a mighty Titan, 
takes the entire Dionysian world on his shoulders 
and disburdens us thereof; while, on the other 
hand, it is able by means of this same tragic 


myth, in the person of the tragic hero, to deliver 
us from the intense longing for this existence, and 
reminds us with warning hand of another exist 
ence and a higher joy, for which the struggling 
hero prepares himself presentiently by his de 
struction, not by his victories. Tragedy sets a 
sublime symbol, namely the myth between the 
universal authority of its music and the receptive 
Dionysian hearer, and produces in him the illusion 
that music is only the most effective means for 
the animation of the plastic world of myth. 
Relying upon this noble illusion, she can now 
move her limbs for the dithyrambic dance, and 
abandon herself unhesitatingly to an orgiastic 
feeling of freedom, in which she could not venture 
to indulge as music itself, without this illusion. 
The myth protects us from the music, while, on 
the other hand, it alone gives the highest freedom 
thereto. By way of return for this service, music 
imparts to tragic myth such an impressive and 
convincing metaphysical significance as could 
never be attained by word and image, without 
this unique aid ; and the tragic spectator in par 
ticular experiences thereby the sure presentiment 
of supreme joy to which the path through destruc-. 
tion and negation leads ; so that he thinks he 
hears, as it were, the innermost abyss of things 
speaking audibly to him. 

If in these last propositions I have succeeded 
in giving perhaps only a preliminary expres 
sion, intelligible to few at first, to this difficult 
representation, I must not here desist from 
stimulating my friends to a further attempt, or 


cease from beseeching them to prepare themselves, 
by a detached example of our common experience, 
for the perception of the universal proposition. 
In this example I must not appeal to those who 
make use of the pictures of the scenic processes, 
the words and the emotions of the performers, in 
order to approximate thereby to musical perception; 
for none of these speak music as their mother- 
tongue, and, in spite of the aids in question, do 
not get farther than the precincts of musical 
perception, without ever being allowed to touch 
its innermost shrines ; some of them, like 
Gervinus, do not even reach the precincts by this 
path. I have only to address myself to those 
who, being immediately allied to music, have it 
as it were for their mother s lap, and are connected 
with things almost exclusively by unconscious 
musical relations. I ask the question of these 
genuine musicians : whether they can imagine a 
man capable of hearing the third act of Tristan 
und Isolde without any aid of word or scenery, 
purely as a vast symphonic period, without 
expiring by a spasmodic distention of all the 
wings of the soul ? A man who has thus, so to 
speak, put his ear to the heart-chamber of the 
cosmic will, who feels the furious desire for ex 
istence issuing therefrom as a thundering stream 
or most gently dispersed brook, into all the veins 
of the world, would he not collapse all at once? 
Could he endure, in the wretched fragile tenement 
of the human individual, to hear the re-echo of 
countless cries of joy and sorrow from the " vast 
void of cosmic night," without flying irresistibly 


towards his primitive home at the sound of this 
pastoral dance-song of metaphysics ? But if, never 
theless, such a work can be heard as a whole, 
without a renunciation of individual existence, if 
such a creation could be created without demolish 
ing its creator where are we to get the solution 
of this contradiction ? 

Here there interpose between our highest 
musical excitement and the music in question the 
tragic myth and the tragic hero in reality only 
as symbols of the most universal facts, of which 
music alone can speak directly. If, however, we 
felt as purely Dionysian beings, myth as a symbol 
would stand by us absolutely ineffective and 
unnoticed, and would never for a moment prevent 
us from giving ear to the re-echo of the universalia 
ante rem. Here, however, the Apollonian power, 
with a view to the restoration of the well-nigh 
shattered individual, bursts forth with the healing 
balm of a blissful illusion : all of a sudden we im 
agine we see only Tristan, motionless, with hushed 
voice saying to himself: " the old tune, why does it 
wake me ? " And what formerly interested us like 
a hollow sigh from the heart of being, seems now 
only to tell us how " waste and void is the sea." 
And when, breathless, we thought to expire by a 
convulsive distention of all our feelings, and only 
a slender tie bound us to our present existence, 
we now hear and see only the hero wounded to 
death and still not dying, with his despairing 
cry : " Longing ! Longing ! In dying still longing ! 
for longing not dying ! " And if formerly, after 
such a surplus and superabundance of consuming 


agonies, the jubilation of the born rent our hearts 
almost like the very acme of agony, the rejoic 
ing Kurwenal now stands between us and the 
"jubilation as such," with face turned toward the 
ship which carries Isolde. However powerfully 
fellow-suffering encroaches upon us, it nevertheless 
delivers us in a manner from the primordial 
suffering of the world, just as the symbol-image 
of the myth delivers us from the immediate per 
ception of the highest cosmic idea, just as the 
thought and word deliver us from the unchecked 
effusion of the unconscious will. The glorious 
Apollonian illusion makes it appear as if the very 
realm of tones presented itself to us as a plastic 
cosmos, as if even the fate of Tristan and Isolde 
had been merely formed and moulded therein 
as out of some most delicate and impressible 

Thus does the Apollonian wrest us from 
Dionysian nniversality and fill us with rapture for 
individuals ; to these it rivets our sympathetic 
emotion, through these it satisfies the sense of 
beauty which longs for great and sublime forms ; 
it brings before us biographical portraits, and 
incites us to a thoughtful apprehension of the 
essence of life contained therein. With the 
immense potency of the image, the concept, the 
ethical teaching and the sympathetic emotion 
the Apollonian influence uplifts man from his 
orgiastic self-annihilation, and beguiles him con 
cerning the universality of the Dionysian process 
into the belief that he is seeing a detached picture 
of the world, for instance, Tristan and Isolde, 


and that, through music, he will be enabled to 
see it still more clearly and intrinsically. What 
can the healing magic of Apollo not accom 
plish when it can even excite in us the illusion 
that the Dionysian is actually in the service 
of the Apollonian, the effects of which it is 
capable of enhancing; yea, that music is essen 
tially the representative art for an Apollonian 
substance ? 

With the pre-established harmony which obtains 
between perfect drama and its music, the drama 
attains the highest degree of conspicuousness, such 
as is usually unattainable in mere spoken drama. 
As all the animated figures of the scene in the 
independently evolved lines of melody simplify 
themselves before us to the distinctness of the 
catenary curve, the coexistence of t^hese lines is 
also audible in the harmonic change which sym 
pathises in a most delicate manner with the evolved 
process : through which change the relations of 
things become immediately perceptible to us in 
a sensible and not at all abstract manner, as we 
likewise perceive thereby that it is only in these 
relations that the essence of a character and of a 
line of melody manifests itself clearly. And while 
music thus compels us to see more extensively and 
more intrinsically than usual, and makes us spread 
out the curtain of the scene before ourselves like 
some delicate texture, the world of the stage is 
as infinitely expanded for our spiritualised, intro 
spective eye as it is illumined outwardly from 
within. How can the word-poet furnish anything 
analogous, who strives to attain this internal ex- 


pansion and illumination of the visible stage-world 
by a much more imperfect mechanism and an 
indirect path, proceeding as he does from word 
and concept? Albeit musical tragedy likewise 
avails itself of the word, it is at the same time able 
to place alongside thereof its basis and source, and 
can make the unfolding of the word, from within 
outwards, obvious to us. 

Of the process just set forth, however, it could 
still be said as decidedly that it is only a glorious 
appearance, namely the afore-mentioned Apollonian 
illusion, through the influence of which we are to 
be delivered from the Dionysian obtrusion and 
excess. In point of fact, the relation of music 
to drama is precisely the reverse ; music is the 
adequate idea of the world, drama is but the 
reflex of this idea, a detached umbrage thereof. 
The identity between the line of melody and 
the !r ing form, between the harmony and the 
character-relations of this form, is true in a sense 
antithetical to what one would suppose on the 
contemplation of musical tragedy. We may 
agitate and enliven the form in the most con- 
.^picuous manner, and enlighten it from within, but 
it still continues merely phenomenon, from which 
there is no bridge to lead us into the true reality, 
into the heart of the world. Music, however, 
speaks out of this heart ; and though countless 
phenomena of the kind might be passing manifes 
tations of this music, they could never exhaust its 
essence, but would always be merely its externalised 
copies Of course, as regards the intricate relation 
of music and drama, nothing can be explained, 


while all may be confused by the popular and 
thoroughly false antithesis of soul and body ; but 
the unphilosophical crudeness of this antithesis 
seems to have become who knows for what 
reasons a readily accepted Article of Faith 
with our aestheticians, while they have learned 
nothing concerning an antithesis of phenomenon 
and thing-in-itself, or perhaps, for reasons equally 
unknown, have not cared to learn anything 

Should it have been established by our analysis 
that the Apollonian element in tragedy has by 
means of its illusion gained a complete victory 
over the Dionysian primordial element of music, 
and has made music itself subservient to its end, 
namely, the highest and clearest elucidation of the 
drama, it would certainly be necessary to add 
the very important restriction : that at the most 
essential point this Apollonian illusion is dissolved 
and annihilated. The drama, which, by the aid of 
music, spreads out before us with such inwardly 
illumined distinctness in all its movements and 
figures, that we imagine we see the texture unfold 
ing on the loom as the shuttle flies to and fro, 
attains as a whole an effect which transcends all 
Apollonian artistic effects. In the collective effect 
of tragedy, the Dionysian gets the upper hand 
once more ; tragedy ends with a sound which 
could never emanate from the realm of Apollonian 
art. And the Apollonian illusion is thereby found 
to be what it is, the assiduous veiling during the 
performance of tragedy of the intrinsically Diony 
sian effect : which, however, is so powerful, that it 


finally forces the Apollonian drama itself into a 
sphere where it begins to talk with Dionysian 
wisdom, and even denies itself and its Apollonian 
conspicuousness. Thus then the intricate relation 
of the Apollonian and the Dionysian in tragedy 
must really be symbolised by a fraternal union of 
the two deities : Dionysus speaks the language of 
Apollo ; Apollo, however, finally speaks the lan 
guage of Dionysus ; and so the highest goal of 
tragedy and of art in general is attained. 


Let the attentive friend picture to himself purely 
and simply, according to his experiences, the effect 
of a true musical tragedy. I think I have so por 
trayed the phenomenon of this effect in both its 
phases that he will now be able to interpret his 
own experiences. For he will recollect that with 
regard to the myth which passed before him he 
felt himself exalted to a kind of omniscience, as if 
his visual faculty were no longer merely a surface 
faculty, but capable of penetrating into the interior, 
and as if he now saw before him, with the aid of 
music, the ebullitions of the will, the conflict of 
motives, and the swelling stream of the passions, 
almost sensibly visible, like a plenitude of actively 
moving lines and figures, and could thereby dip into 
the most tender secrets of unconscious emotions. 
While he thus becomes conscious of the highest 
exaltation of his instincts for conspicuousness and 
transfiguration, he nevertheless feels with equal 


definitiveness that this long series of Apollonian 
artistic effects still does not generate the blissful 
continuance in will-less contemplation which the 
plasticist and the epic poet, that is to say, the 
strictly Apollonian artists, produce in him by their 
artistic productions : to wit, the justification of the 
world of the individuatio attained in this contempla 
tion, which is the object and essence of Apollonian 
art. He beholds the transfigured world of the stage 
and nevertheless denies it. He sees before him the 
tragic hero in epic clearness and beauty, and never 
theless delights in his annihilation. He compre 
hends the incidents of the scene in all their details, 
and yet loves to flee into the incomprehensible. 
He feels the actions of the hero to be justified, anal 
is nevertheless still more elated when these actions 
annihilate their originator. He shudders at the 
sufferings which will befall the hero, and yet antici 
pates therein a higher and much more overpowering 
joy. He sees more extensively and profoundly 
than ever, and yet wishes to be blind. Whence 
must we derive this curious internal dissension, 
this collapse of the Apollonian apex, if not from 
the Dionysian spell, which, though apparently 
stimulating the Apollonian emotions to their high 
est pitch, can nevertheless force this superabundance 
of Apollonian power into its service ? Tragic myth 
is to be understood only - as -a- -^ytnEoIi SH tiqa. ~of 
Dionysian wisdom by means ofthe.. expedients _of 
Apollonian art : the mythus conducts the world 
of phenomena to its boundaries, where it denies 
itself, and seeks to flee back again into the bosom 
of the true and only reality ; where it then, like 


Isolde, seems to strike up its metaphysical swan- 
song : 

In des Wonnemeeres 
wogendem Schwall, 
in der Duft-Wellen 
tonendem Schall, 
in des Weltathems 
wehendem All 
ertrinken versinken 
unbewusst hochste Lust ! * 

We thus realise to ourselves in the experiences 
of the truly aesthetic hearer the tragic artist him 
self when he proceeds like a luxuriously fertile 
divinity of individuation to create his figures (in 
which sense his work can hardly be understood as 
an " imitation of nature ") and when, on the other 
hand, his vast Dionysian impulse then absorbs the 
entire world of phenomena, in order to anticipate 
beyond it, and through its annihilation, the highest 
artistic primal joy, in the bosom of the Primordial 
Unity. Of course, our aesthetes have nothing to 
say about this return in fraternal union of the two 
art-deities to the original home, nor of either the 
Apollonian or Dionysian excitement of the hearer, 

* In the sea of pleasure s 
Billowing roll, 
In the ether-waves 
Knelling and toll, 
In the world-breath s 
Wavering whole 
To drown in, go down in 
Lost in swoon greatest boon I 


while they are indefatigable in characterising the 
struggle of the hero with fate, the triumph of the 
moral order of the world, or the disburdenment of 
the emotions through tragedy, as the properly 
Tragic : an indefatigableness which makes me think 
that they are perhaps not aesthetically excitable 
men at all, but only to be regarded as moral 
beings when hearing tragedy. Never since Aris 
totle has an explanation of the tragic effect been 
proposed, by which an aesthetic activity of the 
hearer could be inferred from artistic circumstances. 
At one time fear and pity are supposed to be forced 
to an alleviating discharge through the serious pro 
cedure, at another time we are expected to feel 
elevated and inspired at the triumph of good and 
noble principles, at the sacrifice of the hero in the 
interest of a moral conception of things ; and how 
ever certainly I believe that for countless men 
precisely this, and only this, is the effect of tragedy, 
it as obviously follows therefrom that all these, 
together with their interpreting aesthetes, have had 
no experience of tragedy as the highest art. The 
pathological discharge, the catharsis of Aristotle, 
which philologists are at a loss whether to include 
under medicinal or moral phenomena, recalls a 
remarkable anticipation of Goethe. " Without a 
lively pathological interest," he says, " I too have 
never yet succeeded in elaborating a tragic situation 
of any kind, and hence I have rather avoided than 
sought it. Can it perhaps have been still another 
of the merits of the ancients that the deepest 
pathos was with them merely aesthetic play, 
whereas with us the truth of nature must co- 


operate in order to produce such a work ? " We 
can now answer in the affirmative this latter pro 
found question after our glorious experiences, in 
which we have found to our astonishment in the 
case of musical tragedy itself, that thCL.dccjjgst 
pathos can in reality be merely aesthetic play : and 
therefore we are justified in believing that now for 
the first time the proto-phenomenon of the tragic 
can be portrayed with some degree of success. He 
who now will still persist in talking only of those 
vicarious effects proceeding from ultra-aesthetic 
spheres, and does not feel himself raised above 
the pathologically-moral process, may be left to 
despair of his aesthetic nature : for which we re 
commend to him, by way of innocent equivalent, 
the interpretation of Shakespeare after the fashion 
of Gervinus, and the diligent search for poetic 

Thus with the re-birth of tragedy the esthetic 
hearer is also born anew, in whose place in the 
theatre a curious quid pro quo was wont to sit 
with half-moral and half-learned pretensions, the 
"critic." In his sphere hitherto everything has 
been artificial and merely glossed over with a 
semblance of life. The performing artist was in 
fact at a loss what to do with such a critically- 
comporting hearer, and hence he, as well as the 
dramatist or operatic composer who inspired him. 
searched anxiously for the last remains of life in 
a being so pretentiously barren and incapable of 
enjoyment. Such " critics," however, have hitherto 
constituted the public ; the student, the school 
boy, yea, even the most harmless womanly creature, 


were already unwittingly prepared by education 
and by journals for a similar perception of works 
of art. The nobler natures among the artists 
counted upon exciting the moral-religious forces 
in such a public, and the appeal to a moral order 
of the world operated vicariously, when in reality 
some powerful artistic spell should have enraptured 
the true hearer. Or again, some imposing or at 
all events exciting tendency of the contemporary 
political and social world was presented by the 
dramatist with such vividness that the hearer could 
forget his critical exhaustion and abandon himself 
to similar emotions, as, in patriotic or warlike 
moments, before the tribune of parliament, or at 
the condemnation of crime and vice : an estrange 
ment of the true aims of art which could not but 
lead directly now and then to a cult of tendency. 
But here there took place what has always taken 
place in the case of factitious arts, an extraordinary 
rapid depravation of these tendencies, so that for 
instance the tendency to employ the theatre as a 
means for the moral education of the people, 
which in Schiller s time was taken seriously, is 
already reckoned among the incredible antiquities 
of a surmounted culture, While the critic got 
the upper hand in the Theatre and concert-hall, 
the journalist in the school, and the press in society, 
art degenerated into a topic of conversation of the 
most trivial kind, and aesthetic criticism was used 
as the cement of a vain, distracted, selfish and 
moreover piteously unoriginal sociality, the sig 
nificance of which is suggested by the Schopen- 
hauerian parable of the porcupines, so that there 


has never been so much gossip about art and so 
little esteem for it. But is it still possible to 
have intercourse with a man capable of conversing 
on Beethoven or Shakespeare ? Let each answer 
this question according to his sentiments : he will 
at any rate show by his answer his conception of 
" culture," provided he tries at least to answer the 
question, and has not already grown mute with 

On the other hand, many a one more nobly 
and delicately endowed by nature, though he may 
have gradually become a critical barbarian in the 
manner described, could tell of the unexpected as 
well as totally unintelligible effect which a success 
ful performance of Loliengrin, for example, exerted 
on him : except that perhaps every warning and 
interpreting hand was lacking to guide him ; so 
that the incomprehensibly heterogeneous and alto 
gether incomparable sensation which then affected 
him also remained isolated and became extinct, 
like a mysterious star after a brief brilliancy. He 
then divined what the aesthetic hearer is. 


He who wishes to test himself rigorously as to 
how he is related to the true aesthetic hearer, or 
whether he belongs rather to the community of 
the Socrato-critical man, has only to enquire 
sincerely concerning the sentiment with which he 
accepts the wonder represented on the stage : 
whether he feels his historical sense, which insists 
on strict psychological causality, insulted by it, 


whether with benevolent concession he as it were 
admits the wonder as a phenomenon intelligible 
to childhood, but relinquished by him, or whether 
he experiences anything else thereby. For he 
will thus be enabled to determine how far he is 
on the v whole capable of understanding myth, that 
is to say, the concentrated picture of the world, 
which, as abbreviature of phenomena, cannot 
dispense with wonder. It is probable, however, 
that nearly every one, upon close examination, 
feels so disintegrated by the critico-historical spirit 
of our culture, that he can only perhaps make the 
former existence of myth credible to himself by 
learned means through intermediary abstractions. 
Without myth, however, every culture loses its 
healthy creative natural power : it is only a horizon 
encompassed with myths which rounds off to 
unity a social movement. It is only by myth 
that all the powers of the imagination and of the 
Apollonian dream are freed from their random 
rovings. The mythical figures have to be the 
invisibly omnipresent genii, under the care of 
which the young soul grows to maturity, by the 
signs of which the man gives a meaning to his life 
and struggles : and the state itself knows no 
more powerful unwritten law than the mythical 
foundation which vouches for its connection with 
religion and its growth from mythical ideas. 

Let us now place alongside thereof the abstract 
man proceeding independently of myth, the 
abstract education, the abstract usage, the abstract 
right, the abstract state : let us picture to our 
selves the lawless roving of the artistic imagination, 


not bridled by any native myth : let us imagine 
a culture which has no fixed and sacred primitive 
seat, but is doomed to exhaust all its possibilities, 
and has to nourish itself wretchedly from the other 
cultures such is the Present, as the result of 
Socratism, which is bent on the destruction of 
myth. And now the myth-less man remains 
eternally hungering among all the bygones, and 
digs and grubs for roots, though he have to dig 
for them even among the remotest antiquities. 
The stupendous historical exigency of the un 
satisfied modern culture, the gathering around one 
of countless other cultures, the consuming desire 
for knowledge what does all this point to, if 
not to the loss of myth, the loss of the mythical 
home, the mythical source ? Let us ask ourselves 
whether the feverish and so uncanny stirring of 
this culture is aught but the eager seizing and 
snatching at food of the hungerer and who would 
care to contribute anything more to a culture 
which cannot be appeased by all it devours, and 
in contact with which the most vigorous and 
wholesome nourishment is wont to change into 
" history and criticism " ? 

We should also have to regard our German 
character with despair and sorrow, if it had already 
become inextricably entangled in, or even identical 
with this culture, in a similar manner as we can 
observe it to our horror to be the case in civilised 
France ; and that which for a long time was the 
great advantage of France and the cause of her vast 
preponderance, to wit, this very identity of people 
and culture, might compel us at the sight thereof 


to congratulate ourselves that this culture of ours, 
which is so questionable, has hitherto had nothing 
in common with the noble kernel of the character 
of our people. All our hopes, on the contrary, 
stretch out longingly towards the perception that 
beneath this restlessly palpitating civilised life 
and educational convulsion there is concealed a 
glorious, intrinsically healthy, primeval power, 
which, to be sure, stirs vigorously only at intervals 
in stupendous moments, and then dreams on again 
in view of a future awakening. It is from this 
abyss that the German Reformation came forth : 
in the choral-hymn of which the future melody of 
German music first resounded. So deep, courage 
ous, and soul-breathing, so exuberantly good and 
tender did this chorale of Luther sound, as the 
first Dionysian-luring call which breaks forth from 
dense thickets at the approach of spring. To it 
responded with emulative echo the solemnly 
wanton procession of Dionysian revellers, to whom 
we are indebeted for German music and to whom 
we shall be indebted for the re-birth of German 

I know that I must now lead the sympathising 
and attentive friend to an elevated position of 
lonesome contemplation, where he will have but 
few companions, and I call out encouragingly 
to him that we must hold fast to our shining 
guides, the Greeks. For the rectification of our 
aesthetic knowledge we previously borrowed from 
them the two divine figures, each of which sways 
a separate realm of art, and concerning whose 
mutual contact and exaltation we have acquired 


a notion through Greek tragedy. Through a 
remarkable disruption of buth these primitive 
artistic impulses, the ruin of Greek tragedy seemed 
to be necessarily brought about : with which 
process a degeneration and a transmutation of the 
Greek national character was strictly in keeping, 
summoning us to earnest reflection as to how 
closely and necessarily art and the people, myth 
and custom, tragedy and the state, have coalesced 
in their bases. The ruin of tragedy was at the 
same time the ruin of myth. Until then the 
Greeks had been involuntarily compelled immedi 
ately to associate all experiences with their myths, 
indeed they had to comprehend them only through 
this association : whereby even the most immedi 
ate present necessarily appeared to them sub specie 
ceterni and in a certain sense as timeless. Into 
this current of the timeless, however, the state 
as well as art plunged in order to find repose 
from the burden and eagerness of the moment. 
And a people for the rest, also a man is worth 
just as much only as its ability to impress on its 
experiences the seal of eternity : for it is thus, as 
it were, desecularised, and reveals its unconscious 
inner conviction of the relativity of time and of 
the true, that is, the metaphysical significance of 
life. The contrary hapj>ens when a people begins 
to comprehend itself historically and to demolish 
the mythical bulwarks around it : with which there 
is usually connected a marked secularisation, a 
breach with the unconscious metaphysics of its 
earlier existence, in all ethical consequences. 
Greek art and especially Greek tragedy delayed 


above all the annihilation of myth: it was 
necessary to annihilate these also to be able to 
live detached from the native soil, unbridled in 
the wilderness of thought, custom, and action. 
Even in such circumstances this metaphysical 
impulse still endeavours to create for itself a form 
of apotheosis (weakened, no doubt) in the Socratism 
of science urging to life : but on its lower stage 
this same impulse led only to a feverish search, 
which gradually merged into a pandemonium of 
myths and superstitions accumulated from all 
quarters : in the midst of which, nevertheless, the 
Hellene sat with a yearning heart till he contrived, 
as Graeculus, to mask his fever with Greek cheer 
fulness and Greek levity, or to narcotise himself 
completely with some gloomy Oriental superstition. 
We have approached this condition in the most 
striking manner since the reawakening of the 
Alexandro - Roman antiquity in the fifteenth 
century, after a long, not easily describable, inter 
lude. On the heights there is the same ex 
uberant love of knowledge, the same insatiate 
happiness of the discoverer, the same stupendous 
secularisation, and, together with these, a homeless 
roving about, an eager intrusion at foreign tables, 
a frivolous deification of the present or a dull 
senseless estrangement, all sub sped sceculi, of the 
present time : which same symptoms lead one to 
infer the same defect at the heart of this culture, 
the annihilation of myth. It seems hardly 
possible to transplant a foreign myth with perman 
ent success, without dreadfully injuring the tree 
through this transplantation : which is perhaps 


occasionally strong enough and sound enough to 
eliminate the foreign element after a terrible 
struggle ; but must ordinarily consume itself in 
a languishing and stunted condition or in sickly 
luxuriance. Our opinion of the pure and vigorous 
kernel of the German being is such that we 
venture to expect of it, and only of it, this elimina 
tion of forcibly ingrafted foreign elements, and we 
deem it possible that the German spirit will reflect 
anew on itself. Perhaps many a one will be of 
opinion that this spirit must begin its struggle 
with the elimination of the Romanic element : for 
which it might recognise an external preparation 
and encouragement in the victorious bravery and 
bloody glory of the late war, but must seek the 
inner constraint in the emulative zeal to be for 
ever worthy of the sublime protagonists on this 
path, of Luther as well as our great artists and 
poets. But let him never think he can fight such 
battles without his household gods, without his 
mythical home, without a " restoration " of all 
German things ! And if the German should look 
timidly around for a guide to lead him back to 
his long-lost home, the ways and paths of which 
he knows no longer let him but listen to the 
delightfully luring call of the Dionysian bird, 
which hovers above him, and would fain point 
out to him the way thither. 


Among the peculiar artistic effects of musical 
tragedy we had to emphasise an Apollonian 
illusion, through which we are to be saved from 


immediate oneness with the Dionysian music, 
while our musical excitement is able to discharge 
itself on an Apollonian domain and in an inter 
posed visible middle world. It thereby seemed to 
us that precisely through this discharge the middle 
world of theatrical procedure, the drama generally, 
became visible and intelligible from within in a 
degree unattainable in the other forms of Apol 
lonian art : so that here, where this art was as it 
were winged and borne aloft by the spirit of 
music, we had to recognise the highest exaltation 
of its powers, and consequently in the fraternal 
union of Apollo and Dionysus the climax of the 
Apollonian as well as of the Dionysian artistic 

Of course, the Apollonian light-picture did not, 
precisely with this inner illumination through 
music, attain the peculiar effect of the weaker 
grades of Apollonian art. What the epos and 
the animated stone can do constrain the con 
templating eye to calm delight in the world of 
the individuatio could not be realised here, not 
withstanding the greater animation and distinct 
ness. We contemplated the drama and penetrated 
with piercing glance into its inner agitated world 
of motives and yet it seemed as if only a sym 
bolic picture passed before us, the profoundest 
significance of which we almost believed we had 
divined, and which we desired to put aside like a 
curtain in order to behold the original behind it. 
The greatest distinctness of the picture did not 
suffice us : for it seemed to reveal as well as veil 
something ; and while it seemed, with its symbolic 


revelation, to invite the rending of the veil for 
the disclosure of the mysterious background, this 
illumined all-conspicuousness itself enthralled the 
eye and prevented it from penetrating more deeply 
He who has not experienced this, to have to 
view, and at the same time to have a longing 
beyond the viewing, will hardly be able to con 
ceive how clearly and definitely these two processes 
coexist in the contemplation of tragic myth and 
are felt to be conjoined ; while the truly aesthetic 
spectators will confirm my assertion that among 
the peculiar effects of tragedy this conjunction is 
the most noteworthy. Now let this phenomenon 
of the aesthetic spectator be transferred to an 
analogous process in the tragic artist, and the 
genesis of tragic myth will have been understood. 
It shares with the Apollonian sphere of art the 
full delight in appearance and contemplation, and 
at the same time it denies this delight and finds 
a still higher satisfaction in the annihilation of the 
visible world of appearance. The substance of 
tragic myth is first of all an epic event involving 
the glorification of the fighting hero : but whence 
originates the essentially enigmatical trait, that 
the suffering in the fate of the hero, the most 
painful victories, the most agonising contrasts of 
motives, in short, the exemplification of the wisdom 
of Silenus, or, aesthetically expressed, the Ugly 
and Discordant, is always represented anew in such 
countless forms with such predilection, and pre 
cisely in the most youthful and exul>erant age of 
a people, unless there is really a higher delight 
experienced in all this ? 


For the fact that things actually take such a 
tragic course would least of all explain the origin 
of a form of art ; provided that art is not merely 
an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth 
a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature, 
placed alongside thereof for its conquest. Tragic 
myth, in so far as it really belongs to art, also 
fully participates in this transfiguring metaphysical 
purpose of art in general : What does it trans 
figure, however, when it presents the phenomenal 
world in the guise of the suffering hero ? Least 
of all the " reality " of this phenomenal world, for 
it says to us : " Look at this ! Look carefully ! 
It is your life ! It is the hour-hand of your clock 
of existence ! " 

And myth has displayed this life, in order 
thereby to transfigure it to us? If not, how shall 
we account for the aesthetic pleasure with which 
we make even these representations pass before us ? 
I am inquiring concerning the aesthetic pleasure, 
and am well aware that many of these representa 
tions may moreover occasionally create even a 
moral delectation, say under the form of pity or 
of a moral triumph. But he who would derive 
the effect of the tragic exclusively from these 
moral sources, as was usually the case far too long 
in aesthetics, let him not think that he has done 
anything for Art thereby ; for Art must above all 
insist on purity in her domain. For the explanation 
of tragic myth the very first requirement is that 
the pleasure which characterises it must be sought 
in the purely aesthetic sphere, without encroaching 
on the domain of pity, fear, or the morally-sublime. 


How can the ugly and the discordant, the sub 
stance of tragic myth, excite an aesthetic pleasure ? 

Here it is necessary to raise ourselves with a 
daring bound into a metaphysics of Art. I repeat, 
therefore, my former proposition, that it is only 
as an^ .aesthetic phenomenon that existence and 
the world appear justified : and in this sense it is 
precisely the function of tragic myth to convince 
us that even the Ugly and Discordant is an 
artistic game which the will, in the eternal fulness 
of its joy, plays with itself. Hut this not easily 
comprehensible proto-phenomenon of Dionysian 
Art becomes, in a direct way, singularly intelligible, 
and is immediately apprehended in the wonder 
ful significance of jnusical dissonance : just as in 
general it is music alone, placed in contrast to 
the world, which can give us an idea as to what 
is meant by the justification of the world as an 
aesthetic phenomenon. The joy that the tragic 
myth excites has the same origin as the joyful 
sensation of dissonance in music. The Dionysian, 
with its primitive joy experienced in pain itself, is 
the common source of music and tragic myth. 

Is it not possible that by calling to our aid the 
musical relation of dissonance, the difficult problem 
of tragic effect may have meanwhile been materi 
ally facilitated ? For we now understand what it 
means to wish to view tragedy and at the same 
time to have a longing beyond the viewing : a frame 
of mind, which, as regards the artistically employed 
dissonance, we should simply have to characterise by 
saying that we desire to hear and at the same time 
have a longing beyond the hearing. That striving 


for the infinite, the pinion-flapping of longing, ac 
companying the highest delight in the clearly- 
perceived reality, remind one that in both states we 
have to recognise a Dionysian phenomenon, which 
again and again reveals to us anew the playful up 
building and demolishing of the world of individuals 
as the efflux of a primitive delight, in like manner 
as when Heraclitus the Obscure compares the 
world-building power to a playing child which 
places stones here and there and builds sandhills 
only to overthrow them again. 

Hence, in order to form a true estimate of the 
Dionysian capacity of a people, it would seem that 
"we must think not only of their music, but just as 
much of their tragic myth, the second witness of 
this capacity. Considering this most intimate 
relationship between music and myth, we may now 
in like manner suppose that a degeneration and 
depravation of the one involves a deterioration of 
the other : if it be true at all that the weakening 
of the myth is generally expressive of a debilitation 
of the Dionysian capacity. Concerning both, how 
ever, a glance at the development of the German 
genius should not leave us in any doubt ; in the 
opera just as in the abstract character of our myth- 
less existence, in an art sunk to pastime just as in 
a life guided by concepts, the inartistic as well as 
life-consuming nature of Socratic optimism had 
revealed itself to us. Yet there have been indica 
tions to console us that nevertheless in some inac 
cessible abyss the German spirit still rests and 
dreams, undestroyed, in glorious health, profundity, 
and Dionysian strength, like a knight sunk in 


slumber : from which abyss the Dionysian song 
rises to us to let us know that this German knight 
even still dreams his primitive Dionysian myth in 
blissfully earnest visions. Let no one believe that 
the German spirit has for ever lost its mythical home 
when it still understands so obviously the voices of 
the birds which tell of that home. Some day it 
will find itself awake in all the morning freshness 
of a deep sleep : then it will slay the dragons, 
destroy the malignant dwarfs, and waken Briinn- 
hilde and Wotan s spear itself will be unable to 
obstruct its course ! 

My friends, ye who believe in Dionysian music, 
ye know also what tragedy means to us. There 
we have tragic myth, born anew from music, and 
in this latest birth ye can hope for everything and 
forget what is most afflicting. What is most afflict 
ing to all of us, however, is the prolonged degrada 
tion in which the German genius has lived estranged 
from house and home in the service of malignant 
dwarfs. Ye understand my allusion as ye will 
also, in conclusion, understand my hopes. 


Music and tragic myth are equally the expression 
of the Dionysian capacity of a people, and are 
inseparable from each other. Both originate in 
an ultra-Apollonian sphere of art ; both transfigure 
a region in the delightful accords of which all dis 
sonance, just like the terrible picture of the world, 
dies charmingly away ; both play with the sting of 
displeasure, trusting to their most potent magic ; 


both justify thereby the existence even of the 
" worst world." Here the Dipnysian, as compared 
with the Apollonian, exhibits itself as the eternal 
and original artistic force, which in general calls 
into existence the entire world of phenomena : in 
the midst of which a new transfiguring appearance 
becomes necessary, in order to keep alive the ani 
mated world of individuation. If we could conceive 
an incarnation of dissonance and what is man but 
that? then, to be able to live this dissonance would 
require a glorious illusion which would spread a 
veil of beauty over its peculiar nature. This is the 
true function of Apollo as deity of art: in whose 
name we comprise all the countless manifestations 
of the fair realm of illusion, which each moment 
render life in general worth living and make one 
impatient for the experience of the next moment. 

At the same time, just as much of this basis of 
all existence the Dionysian substratum of the 
world is allowed to enter into the consciousness 
of human beings, as can be surmounted again by 
the Apollonian transfiguring power, so that these 
two art-impulses are constrained to develop their 
powers in strictly mutual proportion, according to 
the law of eternal justice. When the Dionysian 
powers rise with such vehemence as we experience 
at present, there can be no doubt that, veiled in a 
cloud, Apollo has already descended to us ; whose 
grandest beautifying influences a coming genera 
tion will perhaps behold. 

That this effect is necessary, however, each one 
would most surely perceive by intuition, if once he 
found himself carried back even in a dream into 


an Old-Hellenic existence. In walking under high 
Ionic colonnades, looking upwards to a horizon 
defined by clear and noble lines, with reflections of 
his transfigured form by his side in shining marble, 
and around him solemnly marching or quietly 
moving men, with harmoniously sounding voices 
and rhythmical pantomime, would he not in the 
presence of this perpetual influx of beauty have to 
raise his hand to Apollo and exclaim : " Blessed 
race of Hellenes ! How great Dionysus must be 
among you, when the Delian god deems such charm.s 
necessary to cure you of your dithyrambic mad 
ness ! " To one in this frame of mind, however, an 
aged Athenian, looking up to him with the sublime- 
eye of yEschylus, might answer : " Say also this 
thou curious stranger : what sufferings this people- 
must have undergone, in order to be able to become 
thus beautiful ! Hut now follow me to a tragic 
play, and sacrifice with me in the temple of both 
the deities 1 " 


[Late in the year 1888, not long before he was overcome uy 
his sudden attack of insanity, Nietzsche wrote down a 
few notes concerning his early work, the Ilirth of 
Tragedy. These were printed in his sister s biography 
(Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsches, vol. ii. pt. i. pp. 102 flf.), 
and are here translated as likely to be of interest to 
readers of this remarkable work. They also appear in 
the Ecce Homo. TRANSLATOR S NOTE.] 

"To be just to the Birth of Tragedy (1872), one 
will have to forget some few things. It has 
wrought effects, it even fascinated through that 
wherein it was amiss through its application to 
Wagnerism t just as if this Wagnerism were symp 
tomatic of a rise and going up. And just on that 
account was the book an event in Wagner s life : 
from thence and only from thence were great 
hopes linked to the name of Wagner. Kven to 
day people remind me, sometimes right in the 
midst of a talk on Parsifal, that / and none other 
have it on my conscience that such a high opinion of 
the cultural value of this movement came to the top. 
More than once have I found the book referred 
to as the ^-birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit 
of Music : one only had an ear for a new formula 
of Wagners art, aim, task, and failed to hear 


withal what was at bottom valuable therein. 
1 Hellenism and Pessimism had been a more 
unequivocal title : namely, as a first lesson on the 
way in which the Greeks got the better of pessi 
mism, on the means whereby they overcame it. 
Tragedy simply proves that the Greeks were no 
pessimists: Schopenhauer was mistaken here as 
he was mistaken in all other things. Considered 
with some neutrality, the Birth of Tragedy appears 
very unseasonable : one would not even dream 
that it was begun amid the thunders of the battle 
of Worth. I thought these problems through and 
through before the walls of Metz in cold September 
nights, in the midst of the work of nursing the 
sick ; one might even believe the book to be fifty 
years older. It is politically indifferent un- 
German one will say to-day, it smells shockingly 
Hegelian, in but a few formulae does it scent of 
Schopenhauer s funereal perfume. An idea - 
the antithesis of Dionysian versus Apollonian 
translated into metaphysics ; history itself as the 
evolution of this idea ; the antithesis dissolved 
into oneness in Tragedy ; through this optics 
things that had never yet looked into one another s 
face, confronted of a sudden, and illumined and 
comprehended through one another: for instance, 
Opera and Revolution. The two decisive innova 
tions of the book are, on the one hand, the com 
prehension of the Dionysian phenomenon among 
the Greeks (it gives the first psychology thereof, 
it sees therein the One root of all Grecian art) ; 
on the other, the comprehension of Socratism : 
Socrates diagnosed for the first time as the tool 


of Grecian dissolution, as a typical decadent. 
Rationality against instinct ! Rationality at 
any price as a dangerous, as a life-undermining 
force ! Throughout the whole book a deep hostile 
silence on Christianity : it is neither Apollonian 
nor Dionysian ; it negatives all (esthetic values 
(the only values recognised by the Birth of 
Tragedy], it is in the widest sense nihilistic, 
whereas in the Dionysian symbol the utmost limit 
of affirmation is reached. Once or twice the 
Christian priests are alluded to as a malignant 
kind of dwarfs, as subterraneans. " 


" This beginning is singular beyond measure. 
I had for my own inmost experience discovered 
the only symbol and counterpart of history, I had 
just thereby been the first to grasp the wonderful 
phenomenon of the Dionysian. And again, through 
my diagnosing Socrates as a decadent, I had given 
a wholly unequivocal proof of how little risk the 
trustworthiness of my psychological grasp would 
run of being weakened by some moralistic idiosyn 
crasy : to view morality itself as a symptom of 
decadence is an innovation, a novelty of the first 
rank in the history of knowledge. How far I had 
leaped in either case beyond the smug shallow- 
pate-gossip of optimism contra pessimism ! I 
was the first to see the intrinsic antithesis : here, 
the degenerating instinct which, with subterranean 
vindictiveness, turns against life (Christianity, the 
philosophy of Schopenhauer, in a certain sense 
already the philosophy of Plato, all idealistic 


systems as typical forms), and there, a formula of 
highest affirmation, born of fullness and overfull- 
ness, a yea-saying without reserve to suffering s 
self, to guilt s self, to all that is questionable and 
strange in existence itself. This final, cheerfullest, 
exuberantly mad-and-merriest Yea to life is not 
only the highest insight, it is also the deepest, it 
is that which is most rigorously confirmed and 
upheld by truth and science. Naught that is, is 
to be deducted, naught is dispensable ; the phases 
of existence rejected by the Christians and other 
nihilists are even of an infinitely higher order 
in the hierarchy of values than that which the 
instinct of decadence sanctions, yea durst sanction. 
To comprehend this courage is needed, and, as a 
condition thereof, a surplus of strength : for pre 
cisely in degree as courage dares to thrust forward, 
precisely according to the measure of strength, 
does one approach truth. Perception, the yea- 
saying to reality, is as much a necessity to the 
strong as to the weak, under the inspiration of 
weakness, cowardly shrinking, and flight from 
reality the ideal. . . . They are not free to 
perceive : the decadents have need of the lie, it is 
one of their conditions of self-preservation. Whoso 
not only comprehends the word Dionysian, but 
also grasps his self in this word, requires no refu 
tation of Plato or of Christianity or of Schopen 
hauer he smells the putrefaction 


" To what extent I had just thereby found the 
concept tragic, the definitive perception of the 


iy^t***** v u* 

* </ 

Facsimile of NictzscJiSs handwriting. 



psychology of tragedy, I have but lately stated 
in the Twilight of the Idols, page 139 (ist edit.): 
1 The affirmation of life, even in its most unfamiliar 
and severe problems, the will to life, enjoying its 
own inexhaustibility in the sacrifice of its highest 
types, that is what I called Dionysian, that is 
what I divined as the bridge to a psychology of 
the tragic poet. Not in order to get rid of terror 
and pity, not to purify from a dangerous passion 
by its vehement discharge (it was thus that 
Aristotle misunderstood it) ; but, beyond terror 
and pity, to realise in fact the eternal delight of 
becoming, that delight which even involves in itself 
the/0j of annihilating * In this sense I have the 
right to understand myself to be the first tragic 
philosopher that is, the utmost antithesis and 
antipode to a pessimistic philosopher. Prior to 
myself there is no such translation of the Dionysian 
into the philosophic pathos : there lacks the tragic 
wisdom, I have sought in vain for an indication 
thereof even among \hzgreat Greeks of philosophy, 
the thinkers of the two centuries before Socrates. 
A doubt still possessed me as touching Heraclitus, 
in whose proximity I in general begin to feel 
warmer and better than anywhere else. The 
affirmation of transiency and annihilation, to wit 
the decisive factor in a Dionysian philosophy, the 
yea-saying to antithesis and war, to becoming, with 
radical rejection even of the concept being , that 
I must directly acknowledge as, of all thinking 
hitherto, the nearest to my own. The doctrine of 

* Mr. Common s translation, pp. 227-28. 


eternal recurrence/ that is, of the unconditioned 
and infinitely repeated cycle of all things this 
doctrine of Zarathustra s might after all have been 
already taught by Heraclitus. At any rate the 
portico,^ which inherited well-nigh all its fundamental 
conceptions from Heraclitus, shows traces thereof." 

" In this book speaks a prodigious hope. In 
fine, I see no reason whatever for taking back my 
hope of a Dionysian future for music. Let us 
cast a glance a century ahead, let us suppose my 
assault upon two millenniums of anti-nature and 
man-vilification succeeds ! That new party of 
life which will take in hand the greatest of all 
tasks, the upbreeding of mankind to something 
higher, add thereto the relentless annihilation of 
all things degenerating and parasitic, will again 
make possible on earth that too-much of life , from 
which there also must needs grow again the 
Dionysian state. I promise a tragic age : the 
highest art in the yea-saying to life, tragedy, will 
be born anew, when mankind have behind them the 
consciousness of the hardest but most necessary 
wars, without suffering therefrom. A psychologist 
might still add that what I heard in my younger 
years in Wagnerian music had in general naught to 
do with Wagner ; that when I described Wagnerian 
music I described what / had heard, that I had 
instinctively to translate and transfigure all into the 
new spirit which I bore within myself. . . ." 



WHILE the translator flatters himself that this 
version of Nietzsche s early work having been 
submitted to unsparingly scrutinising eyes is 
not altogether unworthy of the original, he begs 
to state that he holds twentieth-century English 
to be a rather unsatisfactory vehicle for philo 
sophical thought. Accordingly, in conjunction with 
his friend Dr. Ernest Lacy, he has prepared a 
second, more unconventional translation, in brief, 
a translation which will enable one whose knowledge 
of English extends to, say, the period of Elizabeth, 
to appreciate Nietzsche in more forcible language, 
because the language of a stronger age. It is 
proposed to provide this second translation with 
an appendix, containing many references to the 
translated writings of Wagner and Schopenhauer ; 
to the works of Pater, Browning, Burckhardt, 
Rohde, and others, and a summmary and index. 

For help in preparing the present translation, 
the translator wishes to express his thanks to his 
friends Dr. Ernest Lacy, Litt.D. ; Dr. James 
Waddell Tupper, Ph.D.; Prof. Harry Max 
Kerren ; Mr. James M Kirdy, Pittsburg ; and Mr. 
Thomas Common, Edinburgh. 




The birth of trapedy